Craig Below is a retrospective for the year in Moffat County High School varsity sports.
The fall season saw the volleyball team qualify for the regional tournament, and both cross-country teams finished ninth at the state meet.
As summer wore down, the Moffat County High School sports scene heated up.
In cross-country, a team of talented boys led by junior Chris Zirkle and sophomore Alfredo Lebron looked to reignite Moffat County’s Western Slope League dominance.
Joined by seniors Alex McCoy and Corey Wojtikiewicz, Zirkle and Lebron were at the forefront of what appeared to be the league’s best team nucleus.
Adding in runners such as Rene Molina and Kye Adams only added to the Bulldogs’ depth, and the team set forth to recapture the regional title.
On the girls’ side, two things were certain.
One was that Maddy Jourgensen would be among the league’s top runners, and two was that Nike Cleverly would join her.
After losing the 2008 4A girls cross-country champion, Alicia Nelson, the status of the team was uncertain.
Beyond Jourgensen, Cleverly and Jaycee McCoy, the roster was a series of question marks.
Boys varsity football returned a backfield of Matt Linsacum, Pablo Salcido, Nathan Tomlin and Jasen Kettle — a group that appeared ready to wreck havoc on the Bulldogs’ foes.
To the east, rival Steamboat Springs High School had assembled an equally devastating attack of quarterback Austin Hinder, running back Joe Dover and wide receiver Jack Spady.
The cross-country team met a series of challenges in early season meets.
Running at the Sept. 5 Arapahoe Warrior Classic in Littleton, the boys team finished seventh out of 31 teams, and the girls were sixth among 23.
One week later, at the Sept. 11 Grand Junction Central meet, the teams went even further.
Jourgensen and Zirkle finished first for the girls and boys, respectively, and any chance the Bulldogs had of being a dark horse contender for both league titles vanished.
With freshmen Eryn Leonard, Bailey Hellander and Sassy Murray, the girls team had emerged as a serious contender to travel to state. The boys, meanwhile, were only cementing themselves as one of the top teams in the Western Slope League.
September also featured one of the most dominating performances of any Moffat County team, when both cross-country teams triumphed at their lone home meet of the fall, winning the Sept. 26 Moffat County Invitational.
The girls team swept the top five finishes, as Jourgensen, Leonard, Hellander, Cleverly and Murray finished well-ahead of the competition.
The boys took the top three places, as Zirkle won the race, Lebron finished second and McCoy third.
With their first game of the season scheduled for Sept. 4, the boys varsity football team knew it had a mountain to climb in Berthoud High School.
The 2007 state champions had torched Moffat County the year before and returned one of Division 3A’s top defenses.
History couldn’t stop Moffat County, though.
The Bulldogs struck first and led the game, 7-0, going into halftime.
Moffat County’s defense kept pace with the Spartans in the second half, and the Bulldogs led, 14-7, with minutes left.
But Berthoud’s quarterback, Zach Rubesam, manufactured a comeback and tied the game as the clock ran out.
In overtime, Berthoud couldn’t score on the Bulldogs, and Moffat County took possession late after sacking Berthoud’s star quaterback twice.
With the end zone only yards away, Linsacum found Salcido with a short pass to end the game and give Moffat County a 20-14 win.
Despite the suspense of the first game, Moffat County was only beginning.
Sept. 11 in Rifle was even closer, as Moffat County trailed for most of the fourth quarter.
It took a fourth down pass from Salcido to Kettle to keep the Bulldogs in the game against the upstart Bears.
Only a few plays later, it was again Salcido who lifted the Bulldogs with a 20-yard rumble through the middle to hand Moffat County a 21-16 lead.
But the Bears were not done.
They stormed down the field and were within striking distance as time ran out.
A Rifle victory seemed imminent when a lob from Rifle’s Joe Burgess appeared ready for the outstretched hand of a Bear receiver, but Nathan Tomlin snatched it away.
The interception in the end zone sealed the win and gave Moffat County a 2-0 start to the season.
On Sept. 18, the Bulldogs hosted the Battle Mountain Huskies, but the team’s momentum took a hit when word came down that Salcido would be out with an ankle injury.
Moffat County wouldn’t roll over, though, as Kettle rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. Unfortunately, Kettle succumbed to a shoulder injury in the first half, dashing his chance at the record books.
Sophomore Mason Updike picked up where Salcido and Kettle left off and rushed for another 143 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-7 win.
The team’s next game was against perennial powerhouse Palisade, a match rife with emotion for both teams.
The Palisade Bulldogs were celebrating their homecoming in Grand Junction, and Moffat County had a chance to claim league dominance with a road win.
But Palisade’s offense took a bite out of Moffat County, and the team fell to 3-1 on the season with a 34-6 loss.
What the boys soccer team lacked in experience, it made up with talent.
That talent was on full display during the Bulldogs’ first games of the season.
Starting the season on the road, the team was able to come away with a Sept. 5 victory over Monetzuma-Cortez and a Sept. 8 win in Rifle.
The team’s first home game brought in rival Steamboat Springs, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to keep up with the Sailors’ veteran team as they fell, 2-1.
Sept. 18 brought in conference heavyweight Battle Mountain.
The Bulldogs hung with the Huskies for most of the game, but a second half push gave Battle Mountain a 4-1 victory.
The girls varsity volleyball team had a very successful start to its season, winning its first two games in Denver.
But the rest of the month would be a rollercoaster marked with dominating wins and crushing losses.
The team easily handled Rifle, Legend and Denver South, but fell to Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs, Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain.
Mark Dockstader and the boys varsity golf team qualified for regionals, but even Dockstader’s stellar 81 in Steamboat Springs couldn’t make the state championships.
The boys cross-country team won the regional meet in Aspen, and the girls claimed second place.
Girls varsity volleyball fell to Palisade, Eagle Valley, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs, but quickly got back to its winning ways with wins against Delta, Rifle and Battle Mountain.
Facing Delta in its last game of the regular season, the team won to qualify for the regional meet.
Playing top-ranked Eagle Valley, the Bulldogs weren’t able to hold on, and fell in three sets.
In the second game of the tournament, the Bulldogs mounted an impressive comeback and shocked Battle Mountain from two games down to win, 3-2.
In the last game against Rock Canyon, however, the Bulldogs appeared worn down in the third game of the day, and fell, 3-0.
Boys varsity soccer continued to build on its promise as it knocked down Palisade, 8-0, to finish its season 5-8-2.
Football lost Oct. 2 to Delta, a team that would go on to surprise the league by racking up an 8-2 record.
Looking to break its two-game losing streak, the Bulldogs hosted Eagle Valley for homecoming, where the best fireworks were on the field of a 42-0 Moffat County victory.
The Bulldogs’ next game was against rival Steamboat Springs, whose prolific offense guided the Sailors to a 7-0 start.
Moffat County jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but the Sailors wouldn’t give up.
The eventual Western Slope League champions wound up beating Moffat County, 42-14.
The Bulldogs’ next task was just as difficult, as 2008 state champions Glenwood Springs came to Craig.
The Bulldogs weren’t able to break through against the Demons, who won, 31-0, on a snow covered football field.
The cross-country team finally had a chance to run after all the snow melted in Fort Collins.
Riding the fast running of Zirkle and Jourgensen, who finished sixth and fourth, respectively, both teams finished ninth.
Leonard (29th), Hellander (74th), Cleverly (79th) and Murray (115th) continued their season-long improvement, and Lebron (18th) and McCoy (40th) pushed the boys in to the top 10.
Boys varsity football knew it had a slim chance of making the playoffs, but left nothing to chance as it wiped out the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers, 57-20, in the last game.
The victory, which pegged the Bulldogs at 6-4 on the year, wasn’t enough, as Moffat County fell short of the playoffs by a 0.4 margin.
The girls varsity basketball team kicked off the winter sports season with a Dec. 4 victory against Orem, Utah.
The team then fell Dec. 5 to North Sanpete, Utah, and Evanston, Utah, in the Vernal Tournament.
The team faced one of its toughest opponents Dec. 8 when it fell, 57-43, to Montbello in the Grandview Tournament.
The team topped Rangeview on Dec. 9, but fell to Grandview on Dec. 10 and Washington on Dec. 11.
The team ended the year by falling, 54-49, to Montezuma-Cortez.
Boys wrestling began its year with a flourish, as Nathan Tomlin and Charlie Griffiths won their respective classes at the Mountain Vista Survivor Series.
The boys varsity basketball team started its season with a win against Montezuma-Cortez, but wasn’t able to keep up the momentum as it fell to Rock Canyon and Green River, Wyo., in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out.
The team didn’t have much more success competing in the Thornton Tournament, where it dropped four games to some of Division 4A’s toughest teams.
For the sixth straight year, the girls varsity swim team won its home meet.
Diver Genna Bradley and swimmer Eryn Leonard already have qualified for state.