It was a wake-up call that the Moffat County High School football players weren't expecting so early in the season, but maybe they should consider it an early holiday gift.
After a disappointing loss to Battle Mountain on Friday, the Bulldogs have been cleaning up any cobwebs that may remain, making sure their heads are clear when they take the field Friday night.
"I think they know how critical it is to win," head coach Kip Hafey said. "We're going against a good football team."
Hafey knows his team is the underdog in this match-up but likes the challenge that's before him.
"We have to be aggressive, and we can't hold anything back," Hafey said.
Palisade has compiled 588 yards of total offense, 461 of which are on the ground. Head coach John Arledge has two solid running backs in senior Adam Swanson and sophomore Aaron Wagler, who have racked up more than 200 yards each.
On the other hand, Moffat County has a one-yard advantage in total offense (589) but have been hindered by penalties, fumbles and the inability to stop the run.
"Their bread and butter is their rushing game," Hafey said.
Hafey said this week's practice they have had thus far has been the most intense and that he can see it in his players.
"They know what this game means," Hafey said.
With a few lineup changes, the Hafey thinks his team is ready to rock.
"We're mentally prepared," Hafey said. "Sometimes, a loss can be the best thing for you."
Senior Andrew Drake is not underestimating Palisade's strength because he knows once if he overlooks an opponent, he could end up getting burned.
"Last week, we came out ready to play and not to win," Drake said. "This week, we are going to try and come out fired up."
Palisade has a hard-hitting team, and Drake isn't expecting anything less. Moffat County has been working on fighting the pressure a larger team can bring, and pushing back.
Hafey wants to see his team execute better, and in doing so, he thinks Moffat County can get back on track.
After a fumble on the opening play of the game in Battle Mountain last week, senior tailback Nick Navratil rushed 11 times for 53 yards. He's feeling better about this week and said he thinks the loss has woken up his team.
"It showed us that we're not as good as we think we are," Navratil said. "I feel good, and, hopefully, the team pulls together this week."
Navratil agreed with Hafey and Drake about the mental mistakes that have plagued Moffat County since the pre-season.
"We need to win," Navratil said.
The Bulldogs kickoff time is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane.
Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moffat County defense
Moffat County needs to come up with big stops this week if it wants to stop the running game of Palisade.
Although hard hitting is one of Palisade's components, it has a size disadvantage against Moffat County, so players will have to use speed on the field to make up for what they lack in size.
Moffat County offense
Kip Hafey will not detour much from his run-and-gun style of play, but to be successful, his team will have to tighten up its offensive line so the running backs have holes to get through.
Like Hafey, head Palisade coach John Arledge plays a solid running game, so once again, size will be a factor. As long as it can stay solid on the offensive line, players should be able to give their running backs enough room to make plays.
Who: Moffat County (0-1 Western Slope; 1-1 overall) vs. Palisade (0-1 Western Slope; 2-1 overall)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane