Palisade pops football team

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Take the Moffat County football team's game plan and do the opposite. That's what happened to the Bulldogs in the first half of a 35-0 loss to Palisade on Saturday.

"Not much went the way we had planned," coach Kip Hafey said. "We never recovered from the first momentum change."

Moffat County came into the game wanting to control the ball and keep it out of Palisade's hands.

That worked for five possessions.

Moffat forced Palisade to punt on its first possession. Then sophomore fullback J.T. Haddan had runs of 1 and 18 yards.

In the next play, a pitch from senior quarterback Derek Duran was a little behind tailback Daniel Cramblett and the ball was recovered by Palisade.

After the fumble, the maroon Bulldogs converted a fourth-and-2 from the 22-yard line, and then Jason Popick broke free for an 18-yard touchdown.

"That turnover and then their score knocked down everybody's spirits," junior lineman Cory Pike said. "We let down."

Two plays into the next possession, Duran fumbled the ball to Palisade when he was scrambling from defenders. Once again, Palisade overcame a fourth-down situation to score when quarterback Jake Watt found Tanner Whaley for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-7.

A three-and-out for the Moffat offense turned into another touchdown for Palisade. That score came on a 14-yard keeper by Watt.

Palisade would add another Popick touchdown with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the half. The score was 28-0 at halftime.

Moffat had less than 60 yards of total offense in the first half. The Bulldogs only gained two first downs and the defense spent more than 19 of the 24 minutes on the field. Palisade's two running backs, Levon Davis and Popick, each had more yards than the Moffat offense with 75 and 78 yards, respectively.

"They threw a lot at us," Duran said. "We just didn't respond well."

Duran's offense went to the air and drove to Palisade's 31-yard line during the first drive of the second half. An interception stopped the Bulldogs' attempt at a comeback. Two plays later, Popick made the interception even worse. He broke three tackles on the way to a 52-yard touchdown.

Moffat opened up the passing game and drove the ball into Palisade territory four times but could never score. On the last drive of the game, a Duran pass was intercepted in the end zone.

It was the first time in four seasons Kip Hafey's offense was shut out.

"We never controlled the ball," Hafey said. "None of the momentum shifts went our way."

Moffat County finished with 193 yards on offense. Palisade recorded 333, most of which were from the ground. Although passing plays of 14, 18, 22 and 15 yards all seemed to come at opportune times.

"We would do a good job on first down," Hafey said. "But it seemed like on second down, they would make some big gains."

Most of the players wanted to put the game in the back of their minds to prepare for a must-win game against Rifle this Friday.

"We have to learn from this because we need to get better," Pike said. "But what is important is that we get ready for Rifle now."

Duran was eager to get back on the field.

"I didn't have the best game," he said. "It's do-or-die time now."

Eagle Valley's 16-13 win against Steamboat Springs on Friday means that unless the Sailors or Devils are upset in their remaining two games, they have locked up the second- and third-place seeds for the playoffs. Palisade, which shut out Rifle, Steamboat and Moffat, will play Eagle Valley for first place in the last game of the regular season.

Moffat and Rifle will play for the final playoff spot this Friday. The loser has little chance to continue on to the playoffs.

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