Punch - counter-punch.
Normally a sequence used in boxing, the Bulldog football team found itself in a fight with the host Panthers Friday.
Moffat County (3-5 overall, 2-4 Western Slope League) entered looking to break a five-game losing streak.
The Bulldogs broke the streak Friday, claiming a 33-29 victory.
"We came here to win," coach Kip Hafey said. "The kids really came through."
The Panthers (1-6, 0-6 WSL) were held to a first possession three-and-out, after consecutive flags placed them in a hole from which they couldn't climb out of.
Coach Kip Hafey punished the Panther defense, pounding the ball inside with Eli Buckner and outside with Matt Kincheloe and Tyler Roach.
"We hadn't used the three-back set much lately," Hafey said. "I think all the misdirection confused them."
The trio chewed up 60 yards in less than three minutes, capping the series off with a Buckner 4-yard touchdown run, for a 7-0 Bulldog lead.
The Panthers' Caleb Hollar ran for two first downs and had a reception for another. Moffat's defense surrendered four first downs on the drive, with Hollar pounding the ball into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, tying the contest at seven.
Moffat answered back.
Tyler Roach chewed up 32 yards on the drive, wearing down the Panther defense for Buckner. Buckner took over toting the rock at the Cortez 14-yard line, needing two carries to get his second rushing touchdown on the evening, from three yards out.
With the Bulldogs leading 14-7, both offenses fired blanks.
The teams traded interceptions, but Cortez answered again.
The Panthers took over possession with 2:30 remaining before the half, with the target of tying the match before the break, its mission.
Moffat forced a 4th and three, but the Panthers went for it. Quarterback Logan Case scrambled around the right side of the surprised Bulldogs defense, cutting back up the middle for a 46-yard game tying touchdown jaunt.
Quarterback Matt Linsacum threw another errant pass resulting in his second interception of the half in three pass attempts.
The Panthers tossed a Hail Mary pass with six seconds remaining, which resulted in a 31-yard gain, but the clock ran out on Cortez.
Moffat came out of the half doing what the Bulldogs do best.
Running the ball.
Lyle Schaffner, and Halen Raymond ran the Bulldogs down the field, amassing four first downs combined. From three yards out Schaffner bullied his way past the Cortez defense.
The ensuing extra-point attempt failed and the Bulldogs led, 20-14.
The Bulldog defense held the Panthers to another three-and-out, but a roughing the kicker penalty on the ensuing punt handed the ball back to Cortez. The Panthers drove the length of the field, taking a one-point lead after a Keenan Garcia 1-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs ran back down the field behind Buckner and Schaffner. On fourth-and-goal from the nine-yard line, Hafey gambled.
It paid off.
Linsacum completed a 9-yard scoring pass to Colton Conrad, enabling Moffat to regain the lead, 26-21, after a failed two-point conversion.
"It was a perfect pass from Matt," Conrad said. "I scooped it perfectly. I dropped one earlier, and I knew I had to step up."
Case broke free again, this time racing 56 yards for a touchdown. After a two-point run, the seesaw battle was now a 29-26 Panther lead.
Moffat answered once again.
Hafey rode Buckner down the field again, this time the senior punching into the end zone from six yards out for his third touchdown of the game.
"They really didn't hit that hard," Buckner said. "I actually had a guy bounce right off of me."
Moffat led again, 33-29.
With 50 seconds remaining, the Panthers were still clawing toward a victory.
Case hit Keenan Garcia with consecutive passes, guiding Cortez to the Bulldog 14-yard line with 30 seconds left.
Case rolled out and threw a deep pass.
To the wrong team.
Colton Conrad picked off the pass at the 2-yard line, saving the game for the Bulldogs.
"We were in a cover-3 defense and coach was yelling for us to get a turnover," Conrad said. "I jumped the receivers route and that was it."
Hafey was proud of his determination and how they stuck together the entire game.
"It's nice to see them finish out the game strong," he said. "Now we start a new streak. A winning streak."
The Bulldogs host undefeated and state-ranked Glenwood Springs on Friday.
John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org