The Moffat County football team received a serious lecture during halftime against Rifle, and it responded. But the one touchdown it gave up the first half made the difference.
After the game, the seniors were left staring blankly, running through their heads what went wrong in a 12-7 loss to Rifle.
"It don't know," senior Jason Kawcak said about his team's flat performance the first half. "We knew we had to do it, and we didn't."
It stings especially for the seniors because the loss eliminated the Bulldogs from the playoff hunt.
For Rifle coach Damon Wells, Rifle did just enough for a win, and that story is eerily familiar to him.
"It's scary because we're doing a lot of things similar to last year's team," Wells said, referring to last year's run to the state championship. "We just found a way to win at the end of the season."
The Bears' defense came up big three times in the second half.
"We only have 14 kids who play right now, and all of them did well," Wells said. "They all get the credit."
It wasn't pretty on either side.
The Bears stopped Moffat's first drive in the game after one first down and then drove the ball 73 yards in 13 plays. Junior Colby McFarlin went in three yards for the score.
During the drive, the Bears overcame 35 yards in penalties.
"We really had 100 yards of offense that first drive because of penalties," Wells said. "We kept our heads in it though."
The extra point was missed to leave the Bears with a 6-0 lead with 2 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The rest of the half was a defensive battle.
Moffat gained only one more first down, and Rifle fumbled once and punted twice.
Going into half the teams combined for 172 yards of offense, with 100 of it on Rifle's first possession.
Moffat County assistant coach Ron Linsacum challenged his team at halftime.
"We had enthusiasm but no emotion," Moffat County coach Kip Hafey said about the first half. "There wasn't any fight."
In the second half, the Bulldogs started to wrap up better and hit harder -- except on one play.
McFarlin went through three Moffat County players' arms for a 52-yard touchdown run during Rifle's second possession in the second half. The run came two plays after a Derek Duran fumble was recovered by Bryce Enewold on Rifle's 42. Another missed extra point left Rifle with a 12 point lead.
On their next possession, the Bears' Tyler Gose threw an incomplete pass from punt formation to give the Bulldogs the ball on Rifle's 17-yard line.
The Bears defense held through when Moffat's J.T. Haddan let a pass slip through his hands on fourth down from the 10.
After another Rifle punt, the Bulldogs drove 65 yards in five plays, but the Bear defense came up with another big play. Gose intercepted a Duran pass in the end zone with 6:58 left.
Gose fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs on Rifle's 35 a minute later. This time, the Bulldogs would capitalize with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cass Thompson on fourth down. The extra point was good, and the momentum belonged the Bulldogs, who trailed 12-7.
Rifle picked up a first down on its next possession but was forced to punt after the play clock ran out on fourth and three.
Moffat County had the ball on its own 30 with 2:27 remaining.
Duran hit Daniel Cramblett for a 15-yard completion on fourth down. The second fourth-down attempt was a fumble on an attempted hook-and-ladder.
Enewold recovered to seal the win.
"We played great the second half," Hafey said. "We just ran out of time."
Rifle had 232 yards of offense all night, with almost a quarter of that coming on McFarlin's second touchdown run. McFarlin finished with 14 carries for 93 yards.
"We scored when we were inside the 20 tonight, and that's something we struggled with early," Wells said. "All of the facets are starting to come together."
The Bulldogs, who were 3 for 11 on third downs in the game, had 206 yards on offense, and 125 of that was in the second half.
"It's a double whammy," Hafey said. "We lose to a big game against Rifle, and we also are out of the playoffs."
The Bears will seal a playoff spot with a win against Montezuma-Cortez next week. The loss breaks Moffat's three-year streak of consecutive playoff games and left 17 seniors with broken dreams.
"If we would have played in the first half like we did the second half," an emotional Kawcak said, "I don't know. I don't know."