Football team counting on rookie starters

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Daniel Cramblett has been waiting for this week since July. The senior is the starting running back for the Moffat County Bulldogs.

"I've been waiting for a long time," he said. "It's bad that I'm filling in for an injury, but timeing-wise, this is the best I've felt since this summer."

Cramblett was the projected starter for the season, but he broke his ankle on the last day of team camp in the summer. He spent his summer on crutches, and he was hampered with recurring injuries to his ankle at the beginning of the season.

With Cramblett not at full strength, junior Andrew Drake took over at tailback. Drake's improvement kept him on the field, and Cramblett started at slotback. Drake rushed for 250 yards against Delta and was on his way to 100 yards in the first half against Glenwood Springs when a Demon lineman fell on his leg, injuring his knee.

Now Drake is out for at least this week, and Cramblett is back where he was this summer.

"Daniel will do a good job," coach Kip Hafey said. "We are going to need all of our first-time starters and younger guys to play well this week."

Cramblett and his teammates have a tough task this week. They travel to Grand Junction to face the No. 2 and 5-1 Palisade Bulldogs. Palisade has owned the Western Slope League the past five years, going 25-4. The team also has owned the Moffat County Bulldogs, going 5-0 in that span.

But Palisade coach Jon Ar--ledge doesn't want his team to take its domination for granted.

"We are going to have to play at our best to get a win," he said. "Moffat County has a very skilled team. They have a quarterback that can create and probably the best tight end in the league."

Moffat County will be without Drake and starting senior linemen Jake Bilodeau and Ricky Willis. As Hafey said, the younger players will have to perform for Moffat.

"We have to match them," Hafey said. "It's important to keep the ball out of Palisade's hands."

Cramblett has faith in the guys in front of him.

"Our line had gotten better every week," he said. "I think if they can get a push we'll have a good game."

There's not a lot to look at for a comparison of the teams.

The only common opponent the two teams have had is Steamboat Springs. Palisade shut out the Sailors 29-0 and Moffat lost 24-23.

The scores are a bit deceiving because Steamboat scored twice in overtime on the Moffat County Bulldogs.

"On paper, it looks like we're going to get blown out," Hafey said. "But I don't see it happening that way."

Both coaches predicted the game would be close.

"It will probably come down to a missed tackle or a turnover," Arledge said. "It's been that way the last two years."

Moffat County was 12 seconds from beating Palisade last year when a 60-yard pass play and a two-point conversion gave the maroon Bulldogs the 37-36 win.

Most of that Palisade team is back this year, and Moffat County is a completely different team.

"We're a different team even from when we met them at camp this summer," Hafey said. "We're without five guys who played for us at camp."

Palisade is once again one of the top rushing teams in the state. Running backs Jason Poppick and Levon Davis have rushed for nearly 2,000 yards. Moffat's offense has become more balanced as the season has progressed. The plan to primarily be a passing team has changed as Moffat has had a hard tie giving Duran the time to pass.

They hope to establish the run as they did against Glenwood and Delta.

"The run will help us manage the clock," Hafey said. "That all goes back to keeping the ball out of Palisade's hands."

The maroon Bulldogs are at home for the first time in five games this weekend. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Stocker Stadium.

"It will be nice to have good weather in this game for once," Alredge said. "The last two years, we've gone up there and it was cold and it took us two weeks to fully recover from the game."

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