The Panthers drew first blood on Friday night at Delta High School -- the Bulldog football team put on a tourniquet and methodically bounced back from a 7-0 defecit going into the second quarter.
The Panthers and Bulldogs both saw flags fly freely during the opening minutes of the game, but after both teams settled down, the Panthers defense patiently waited for the Bulldogs to make a mistake. On fourth and 10 at the Delta 30-yard line, the Bulldogs threw an incomplete pass and the Panthers took over. Eleven plays later the Panthers were in the end zone celebrating a 7-0 lead, on a 1-yard run by junior quarterback Kevin Osborne.
With 3 minutes and 4 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, the Bulldogs put a strong drive together, with three first down conversions.
The drive continued to start the second quarter, and five plays later the Bulldogs found the end zone. On third and seven, quarterback Andrew Drake put the ball in the air for tightend J.T. Haddan, the completion set the Bulldogs up for first and goal at the 8-yard line.
Drake saw a hole and drove through it, going 8-yards for the score and a 7-7 tie.
With 10:04 left the Bulldogs kicked off to Delta. The ensuing drive resulted in a punt by the Panthers and the Bulldogs -- not one to look a gift horse in the mouth -- took advantage.
They used an 8-play drive to put Nick Navratil in the promised land. The 3-yard run and point after attempt game Moffat County a 14-7 lead.
After the next kickoff the Bulldogs forced a Delta fumble and Moffat County's Cory Pike recovered.
The momentum shift in the Bulldogs favor didn't last long however -- as Drake scrambled to find a man five plays in and made a bad pitch that was recovered by Delta's Osborne.
To make things even more interesting, 13 seconds later, Moffat's Brice Boling made a beautiful interception at the Bulldog own 20-yard line and returned it 7-yards.
Setting up on first and 10 the Bulldogs drove into Delta territory, but the Panther defense stepped up and made a enormous stop on fourth and one, to take over on their own 18-yard line.
"We made some key stops and got some turnovers," coach Bruce Keith said.
As the clock wound down to zero, the Bulldogs were happy with the way the first half ended, but knew going into the locker room that there was more work to be done in the second half.
The third quarter remained relatively uneventful, both teams made big gains but were not able to capitalize.
Delta coach Bruce Keith sat patiently in the pressbox calling plays to his assistants on the sidelines.
On third and 14, Drake rolled to the outside and threw an incomplete pass to junior Paul Nelson -- in the process the Bulldogs received another flag and another 5-yard penalty.
Now third and 24, the Bulldogs heard the buzzer and prepared to hold on.
As the clock ticked down to zero, neither the Panthers nor the Bulldogs were giving an inch.
"We didn't make plays," Keith said of his team.
The Bulldogs finally held on, getting two key interceptions in the final minutes of the game.
The first, a huge play by Boling who recorded his second pick of the night came at 4:53, when he went up on a short pass from Osborne.
"The quarterback wasn't all that hard to read," Boling said. "He kind of looked to one person."
Boling wasn't the only Bulldog to come up with a big stop. Junior Jake Bricker made a play of his own, tipping an Osborne pass to himself, when the Panthers had second and seven at the 45-yard line.
"We definitely needed this win," Bricker said.
For coach Kip Hafey the win wasn't pretty, but it was what they needed.
"It keeps us moving on," Hafey said. "Next week will be just as important as this week -- again a must win, in our league. It was a good win and it was really nice to see this weeks practice of focusing on fumbles and talking about turnovers translate into tonight, which kept us in the game. And the kids responded to that, and our defense and those turnovers kept us in the game."
The Bulldogs now have a second chance at life in the playoffs, as long as they win out, and with the way this season has gone for the entire Western Slope, anything can happen.
Up next for Moffat County is a home game against Montezuma-Cortez at 7 p.m. Friday.