The last two minutes of Caleb Owens' football career were easily his best.
The Moffat County senior recovered a blocked punt and ran back an interception for touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a 30-20 win against Montezuma-Cortez in the season finale. Owens also had an interception earlier in the second half.
"Those were the first two touchdowns of my high school career," he said. "It was definitely good to finish up like that."
Owens' two scores turned around a game that appeared to be the final proverbial nail in a disappointing season for the Bulldogs.
Moffat was without senior quarter--back Derek Duran in the second half, and without its star behind center, the offense almost fumbled its way to the team's fourth straight loss.
"We didn't plan for a situation like that this year," coach Lance Scranton said about bringing in a back-up quarterback for the entire second half. "We probably should have though."
Senior Reid Hanneman stepped in for Duran, but snaps between the new quarterback and center Blake Kawcak were dropped five times. Three of those times, the Panthers recovered the ball.
"As soon as we got things going on offense, we'd lose the ball," Scranton said. "If we hold onto the ball, the score isn't as close."
The first fumble of the second half, which happened 12 plays and 60 yards into the Bulldogs' drive, was converted into a 31-yard touchdown pass from Darren Waymen to Bryan Kop. The touchdown and two-point conversion gave the Panthers a 20-16 lead.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over twice more in the half, but the defense kept Cortez off the board with two punts and a blocked field goal.
With less than two minutes left, sophomore Robert Daniels blocked a Cortez punt on the Panthers' 17-yard line and Owens pounced on it in the end zone. The two-point conversion gave Moffat a 24-20 lead.
Cortez started its last chance on the 20-yard line with 1:46 remaining. The Panthers earned one first down but two unsportsmanlike penalties, one of which was the ejection of coach Tom Adair, put them in a first-and-40 hole.
Waymen launched the final pass of the game into Owens' arms, and he ran it back 35 yards for the score.
"We were nervous on the sideline as time ran down because we were afraid it was going to be another let down," Owens said. "It was good to be on top again finally."
Duran and senior slotback Daniel Cramblett didn't play the second half because of injuries late in the second quarter.
Not good news for the basketball and wrestling coaches.
The Panthers struck first in the game with a 35-yard pass from Waymen to Tim Halper with 9:35 left in the first quarter. Moffat would fail to score on its next possession when a Duran pass sailed incomplete on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
The Bulldog defense then made up for the first score when Kevin Loughran intercepted a pass in Panther territory.
Two plays later, Duran connected with senior Cass Thompson for a 9-yard score. The two-point conversion gave the Bulldogs an 8-6 lead with 9:55 remaining in the half.
Cortez didn't take long to answer.
Three plays later, sophomore Drew Durall took a pitch for 66-yards and a score. The two-point conversion failed to leave the Panthers with a 12-8 lead.
The Bulldogs received good field position on their 46 on the kickoff and marched down the field. Seven plays later, Andrew Drake stepped into the end zone for a 14-12 lead with 6:07 remaining. Another two-point conversion made it 16-12.
Cortez's Tim Hapler appeared to put the Panthers right back into the lead with a 99-yard kickoff return but a little yellow hankey on the field made his effort worthless. Cortez would end up punting.
On Moffat's next drive, Duran's fake punt attempt was intercepted in Bulldog territory.
Then the defense came to save the day.
The Panthers advanced inside the red zone before two sacks drove them out of field-goal range at the end of the half.
"For a game that wasn't supposed to mean much it was exciting," Scranton said. "I thought our defense really showed up tonight."
Moffat's defense held Cortez both times it reached the red-zone.
"Some big plays hurt us, but I thought our defense was all over the ball," Owens said.
The win sends the seniors out with a 5-5 record overall and 4-4 in the Western Slope League.
"I thought the guys overcame some adversity tonight," Scranton said. "In a season we struggled to do that in, it was nice to finish on a positive note."