The atmosphere during the Bulldogs' football practice Wednesday was intense. The players' task was simple: Make a tackle.
"Do not let go" was the phrase most often heard from assistant coach John Haddan.
Moffat County is coming off a heartbreaking loss to rival Steamboat Springs and is looking for a little redemption at 7 p.m. Friday against Class 3A, No. 3-ranked Berthoud.
The Spartans have defeated their opponents, 154-21, in their first five games, and won a tough match-up with Sterling on Friday in overtime.
"We know we're going to see a senior-loaded, talented group of kids," assistant coach Lance Scranton said.
Berthoud has had an electrifying start to its season, and coach Dan McGinn expects this week to be a battle.
"We expect Moffat to be extremely physical," McGinn said. "We'll have to grind it out and be patient."
The Spartans have received some outstanding play from senior Derek Good.
In his game against Sterling, he rushed for 128 yards on 12 carries, and began the second half of that game with a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
"He's having a good season," McGinn said.
With 19 touchdowns in five games, Good has proven his worth.
The Bulldogs will have to remain sharp Friday and eliminate what Scranton says are the "controllables."
Moffat County offense
Keeping the Spartan defense on the field, finishing drives and keeping the ball in their hands.
Create a short field, don't give up big plays and create turnovers.
Moffat County defense
Tackle, create turnovers and pin the Spartans in their own half of the field.
Get the ball to Derek Good. And keep the offense spread out.
"There are a lot of things that we can control," Scranton said. "We need to cut down on the mental mistakes."
It has been the challenge they have faced all season, and senior Blake Kawcak knows his team can pull together.
"We want to win," Kawcak said. "It sucks losing, and we want to get back on track and try to make the playoffs."
For the Bulldogs to make that dream a reality, Scranton said they have to remain focused.
"We have the opportunity this week to go in and be a giant killer," Scranton said. "To play a team that has a lot to lose. We want to go out and give them the best effort we can."
As practice continued on Wednesday, the Bulldogs intently listened to the instructions from their coaches.
"Focus on their hips," Scranton told his defense. "That's what's going to tell you where they're going."
The Bulldogs are starting to find their identity.
"This week, we discovered what kind of team we are," Scranton said. "We're a lunch pail team. We're not three-dimensional, we're one-dimensional, and we're going to run the football."
Scranton believes that the Bulldogs are ready to breakout of the rut they've been in.
"In every game we've beat ourselves," Scranton said. "The guys have been ready all year and now we're making minor adjustments."
The goal of the Bulldogs from Day 1 has been to make the playoffs, and Scranton knows the opportunity is there and that the team just needs to seize it.
"Playoffs are a new season," Scranton said. "You never know what's going to happen."
With an undefeated record on the line, the Bulldogs know that Berthoud won't go quietly into the night, but they won't either.
Moffat County plays the Spartans at 7 p.m. Friday in Berthoud.
Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or email@example.com.