John Vandelinder

Photo by John Vandelinder

John Vandelinder

John Vandelinder: Moffat County's top 10 games of the season

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John Vandelinder

John Vandelinder's columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays in the Craig Daily Press. E-mail him at jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

— The Moffat County High School rodeo team begins the preliminary round of the state championships a week from today, officially signaling the end of the 2007-08 MCHS sports season.

I've been fortunate to spend time with each of the Bulldog teams through their ups and downs, witnessing firsthand how dedicated the athletes are.

It's not going to be easy, but I am going to rank the most exciting games/events from the past season.

Let's take a look:

10. Sept. 22, 2007: Varsity boys soccer vs. Battle Mountain

The Bulldogs faced an undefeated - and three-time defending league champion - Battle Mountain team in the second of back-to-back league games. MCHS took an early 1-0 lead, parlaying it into a 2-1 halftime advantage. The Huskies tied the contest with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation, eventually winning in extra time, 3-2. The game ignited MCHS as the Bulldogs closed the season with a 2-0-1 record against playoff teams as well as more than doubling last year's win total.

9. May 6, 2008: Girls golf at state regionals in Delta

Senor Meghan Innes shot a season-best 80 on her way to a second-place finish, qualifying for the state championships for the fourth consecutive year.

Sophomore Heather Nicholson saved her best round of the year for the regionals, as well, carding an 88 on her way to a fifth-place finish and her first state championship berth.

8. April 25, 2008: Track hosts Clint Wells Invite

The Bulldogs dominated their home turf in the lone home meet of the season. In front of a packed house, MCHS won 15 of 28 individual events and senior JT Haddan shattered the school record in boys shot put. The girls team won the team title by more than 75 points.

7. Sept. 13, 2007: Football at Palisade

MCHS entered Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction a heavy underdog to state-ranked Palisade. The Bulldogs thwarted consecutive Palisade offensive possessions inside the 20-yard line, and despite a season-ending injury to Haddan, drove inside the five-yard line behind steady running from tailback Eli Buckner. A fumble on the 2-yard line halted the MCHS momentum and Palisade broke the game open with three consecutive scores.

6. Feb. 1, 2008: Girls basketball vs. Glenwood Springs

The Demons defeated the Bulldogs by 16 points in the teams' first meeting without senior Markie Workman, who was injured, and limited by a foul-plagued Desirae Pearcey. MCHS needed a victory to secure at least a share of the league title. Pearcey and Workman combined for 38 points, as the Bulldogs triumphed, 65-42, in front of the largest crowd of the season.

5. Feb. 22, 2008: Charlie Griffiths at wrestling championships

The Bulldogs qualified five wrestlers for the state championships, but it was freshman Charlie Griffiths who impressed the most. Griffiths - the lone freshman in the 125-pound weight class - tore threw the opposition in the event's second day - eliminating two seniors on his way to a fourth-place finish, the highest by a Bulldog at the event.

4. Sept. 8, 2007: Girls volleyball vs. Steamboat Springs

By far the loudest home crowd of the season - regardless of the sport - was on hand to witness MCHS against archrival Steamboat Springs. The teams split the first four games by identical scores, forcing a fifth-game tiebreaker to decide the match. The Bulldogs took a 16-15 lead, needing one point to claim the two-point victory, but the Sailors reeled off three straight points to win the nail-biting, match-deciding fifth game, 18-16. The Bulldogs went on to win 16 consecutive games.

3. May 3, 2008: Baseball vs. Longmont

After splitting the regular season league title with Palisade, the Bulldogs entered the district round of the state playoffs as the No. 19 seed. In the team's first-round match-up against No. 14 Longmont, MCHS found themselves trailing 7-2 heading into the top of the sixth inning. A solo home run by senior Chris Winder ignited a nine-run sixth by the Bulldogs who went on to complete the upset, 11-9.

2. Feb 16, 2008: Kelsey Conci at swimming state championships

The night before the finals, the MCHS swim team was relaxed, playing what they call "the ninja game" on the eve of the team's biggest meet of the season. Senior Kelsey Conci was the model of relaxation 15 minutes before her final heat in the 50-free, sleeping on the tile floor of the EPIC center in Fort Collins. Kelsey awoke and dominated the race, winning by more than a second, capturing her first state championship - and a gold medal - in her final high school appearance.

1. Jan. 19, 2008: Boys basketball at Delta

Hands down the most exciting MCHS game of the season.

The Bulldogs were winless in league play and 1-11 overall entering the home of the Devils. Trailing by three points with 6.2 seconds remaining, junior Thomas Noble drained a three-pointer to tie the contest, and after a Delta backcourt violation, Noble assisted on junior Chayton Owens' game-winning lay-up with no time on the clock. The 59-57 victory gave the team momentum going into its first playoff berth in three years.

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793, or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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