There might not be a lot of holding hands and team hugs but the coaching staff of the Moffat County High School football team isn't about to shy away from its affection toward its players.
"We aren't afraid to use the word love on the football field," head coach Kip Hafey said. "We are a family that trusts and works well together."
The focus on performing together is expressed on the team shirts by the term "Bulldog Nation."
"There is a lot of unity," senior lineman Kyle Fredrickson said.
"I don't think anybody is out there to hog the glory," senior lineman Chris Compton added.
Selfless play will be easier to determine when the games roll around; for now at least one thing is certain -- the team isn't small.
"We're big," Hafey said. "And behind that size is a lot of weapons."
The average weight of an offensive lineman this season is 240 pounds -- a figure a 5A team would be happy with.
Four starting lineman are back from last year's playoff team. All 6 feet, 5 inches and 275 pounds of senior Michael Babb, whom the Rocky Mountain News deemed "massive," anchors both defensive and offensive lines.
With size comes experience. The four returning starters on the line: Babb, Compton, Fredrickson and Stetson Otero have had starting time since they were sophomores.
"Some other teams in the league are talking about how good their lines are but we're going to be tough to match," Babb said.
Senior linebackers and running backs Kellan Moore and Scott Garoutte will be behind the lines on offense and defense. They are a couple of the offensive weapons Hafey talked about. They will share time with senior Daniel Tague and junior Daniel Cramblett in the backfield. Junior Derek Duran will take his second year of snaps as the starting quarterback.
"We have so much versatility on offense," Hafey said. "We can run 11 plays off of one formation."
Passing options for Duran will include junior tight end Kevin Loughran and senior wide receivers Jared Lowther and Tyler Pike.
Throw in senior lineman Jerry DesJardins and that makes eight of the offensive starters seniors. The same number of seniors goes for the defense.
"This team has been to the playoffs twice and knows what it takes," Hafey said. "Teams are going to have to prepare for every one of our guys because they can't just point at one and say 'that's who we have to stop.'"
Almost forgotten in the pre-season talk is the fact that the Bulldogs graduated nine starting seniors from last year's team.
"We still have size, strength and speed," Compton said.
"I think we're a better team," Garoutte added.
No lack of confidence there, which comes in part of the work put in during the summer.
"We had a lot more chances to get better in the off-season," Duran said. "A lot of kids took advantage."
The team had a local camp in the spring and the fall, traveled to Wyoming for a summer team camp and ran drills for the position players once a week in the summer.
Hafey and his staff were excited this summer o see that Moffat County athletes were starting to catch what he called "Bulldog Fever."
"Once we start winning it's contagious," he said.
Winning comes tough in the Class 3A Western Slope Conference. With the addition of Eagle Valley, which moved up from 2A, there are five playoff teams in the conference this year.
"There's rarely an easy game in this league," Hafey said. "You have to take it one at a time and home the last one ends up at the state championship."
The Bulldogs start their quest 7 pm Friday at home against Rawlins, Wyo.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 970-824-7031 ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.