It was a day of redemption for the Moffat County Bulldogs.
Traveling to Gypsum to take on the Eagle Valley Devils, the Bulldogs came out strong and sharp to a 26-6 victory.
"It was a big win for the guys and gets them back into the playoff hunt," coach Kip Hafey said after the game.
The Bulldogs have gone into halftime of each game this season with the lead, and found ways to squander it away during the second half. That was not the case Friday night.
The Bulldogs used patience in the first quarter and six first downs to build a 6-0 lead against the Eagle Valley Devils.
Moffat County's touchdown came from a 1-yard run by Nick Navratil -- who was celebrating his 18th birthday -- with 5 minutes and 59 seconds left on the clock. The 14-play, 59-yard drive started on kickoff, when Sam Wheeldreyer returned the ball 18 yards to the 30-yard line. A 15-yard personal foul penalty by the Devils resulted in a Bulldog first down that set up the touchdown run by Navratil. The Devils had a chance to make big play on fourth down and three, but the Bulldog defense was strong, and didn't give up the first down.
With 1:53 to go, the Devils got possession, but could not convert as time expired in the quarter.
"Their team was fired up to win," Devils head coach John Ramunno said. "It seems like we just couldn't get in sync tonight."
The Bulldogs finally caught the break they were looking for on an interception by Brice Boling on the first play of the second quarter.
Boling returned the ball 13-yards to the 31-yard line, which set the Bulldogs up for their second touchdown of the night.
On a nine-play 31-yard drive, Navratil delivered another 1-yard score with 6:44 left on the clock.
On the ensuing drive by Devils quarterback Mike Medsker, Eagle Valley lost 3 yards and throw an incomplete pass on third down and 11. The Devils caught a break when Moffat County mishandled the punt, and Eagle Valley regained possession at the Bulldogs' 21-yard line.
The Bulldog defense then stepped in. Junior Travis Wilson and his defensive crew held their ground and left the Devils stranded at the 39-yard line.
"It was really a team effort, and we really played together," Wilson said. "It's not just one guy, it's all 11 of us."
Hafey said the second half started off a little "shaky," with the Bulldogs botching a punt on fourth and one. The snap from the center was high, and punter J.T. Haddan couldn't get control of it, falling on the ball at the 16-yard line. That set up Eagle Valley for their only touchdown of the night.
"Our kids responded," Hafey said. "At half time, we told the kids we need to pick it up the second half, we need to be a second half football team too."
Eagle Valley's touchdown came from a 5-yard run by fullback Brendan Best with 4:29 left to go in the quarter.
Best got the ball on a hand-off from Medsker, and ran untouched up the middle and into the end zone.
The Bulldogs proved their staying power by starting off the fourth quarter with one of two Haddan touchdowns.
The five-play 18-yard drive was capped off by Hadden muscling his way through the line and two-yards into the end zone.
Haddan struck again at 2:22, this time on a 1-yard run.
Then, Haddan plowed his way up the middle to seal the win for Moffat County.
"We came together as a team," Navratil said after the game. "No one got down on anyone, and no one got mad, we just stayed strong."
The much-needed win for the Bulldogs was a big confidence boost heading into homecoming week.
"Eagle Valley beat Steam--boat, and we just beat Eagle Valley, and now we know in our hearts that we can beat Steamboat," Navratil said.
The Bulldogs face Steam--boat Springs next Friday at 7 p.m. at Moffat County High School.