Comeback kids

Football players display resilience during turnaround season

Even though the quest for a state title was cut short, the Moffat County football team isn't disappointed by the second half of its season.

The Bulldogs went from a 2-4 team at the season's midpoint to a 5-5 team by its end.

"I think the kids did their best," coach Kip Hafey said. "They worked hard every day.

"I was proud of the seniors for stepping up the second half (of the season) and getting into the playoffs."

Along with the three-game winning streak at the end of the year, other highlights included players who stood out among the best in Class 3A.

Senior running back Nick Navratil in 10-regular season games accumulated 1,188 yards on 248 carries, which placed him sixth overall in the state and second in the Western Slope League. His 4.79 yards-per carry average aided the Bulldogs throughout the season.

"I did about 1,200 yards in 10 games," Navratil said. "Not a lot of kids can do that, especially with a year off. I just kind of came out of nowhere."

Junior J.T. Haddan continued to dominate on the defensive end. His 97 tackles are among the leaders in Class 3A -- he ranked 11th overall -- and third overall in Western Slope. With 60 solo tackles Haddan, was second in solo shots in the league to Montezuma-Cortez's Tim Halper, who recorded 67 solo tackles in the regular season.

But it wasn't only Navratil and Haddan who made plays for Moffat County.

"I think we had a lot of players who played hard," Hafey said. "Seniors Blake Kawcak and Corey Pike especially. They fought to make holes for our running backs."

Junior Paul Nelson led the Bulldogs this season in receptions, with 13 catches for 173 yards, considering that Moffat County is a run-dominated team.

Senior Brice Boling was Moffat County's interception leader this season. The defensive back pulled down seven passes from opposing quarterbacks. He also led the Western Slope in punt returns.

"Brice had played big for us all year," Hafey said after Saturday's playoff loss.

After the heartbreaking 26-0 loss to Summit on Saturday, the Bulldogs headed into the locker room, where Hafey said they continued a tradition.

"We took all the seniors and had them put their helmets on one last time, look through it and talk about the good times," Hafey said.

The graduating 13 will never put on a Moffat County blue and white football jersey again. Some will never again play the game. But others have hopes and aspirations of continuing their football careers.

"Next is college ball," Navratil said.

Hafey will now begin preparations for next year -- breaking down film and getting players on an off-season workout plan. But Hafey said he'll carry memories of 2006 with him.

Senior Sam Weeldreyer said he will, too.

"It wasn't long enough. I had fun playing with them, but I just wish it was longer," he said of his season and his teammates.

Hafey said he was proud of his players and how they stepped up this year.

"Unfortunately, the season ended shorter than we would have liked," Hafey said. "It's too bad for the seniors. But they should still be proud that they got themselves back in, and that they're one of the best teams in the state."

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