Despite having already played eight games, the Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball team’s season is just beginning.
“We’re excited to get into league play and see how we stack up against the competition,” coach Steve Maneotis said. “All that matters is we’re 0-0 going into league play.”
The Bulldogs have a 2-6 record on the early season, with one loss coming at the hands of Rock Canyon High School on Dec. 11 and another four losses at the Dec. 17 to 19 Thornton Tournament in Denver.
With a blank slate in the Western Slope League, the Bulldogs’ early season struggles are erased with their record, Maneotis said.
“It doesn’t matter what has happened up to now,” he said. “Anybody has an opportunity to put yourself in a position for the league championship and get another shot going into the playoffs. Then maybe you have a chance to redeem yourself against someone you faced in the preseason.”
Despite the losses, the team hasn’t shown any signs of letting up, Maneotis said.
“As a coach, you worry about when you take it on the chin in a 50-, 40-, 30-point loss how the kids will bounce back,” he said. “But I thought they weathered the storm well, and they certainly have seen as good of competition as we will see in league play.”
Other Western Slope League teams shouldn’t overlook the Bulldogs, Maneotis said.
“They’re starting to play better as a team,” he said. “As we closed things out in Denver, they played much more competitively.”
Maneotis said the Bulldogs have spent practices adjusting to one another’s personal style.
“It’s a team that’s still getting to know one another,” he said. “They haven’t played together very much until now. I think they’re really trying to find their identity and put something together.”
For the first two league games, Moffat County will have one familiar foe and one unknown.
Eagle Valley is up first, when the Devils play Jan. 8 in Moffat County.
Maneotis said he doesn’t know the individual players but that he knows the system coach Pat Gabriel has in place.
“I haven’t heard a lot about them — I’ve been looking at some reports, and their record is about where we are,” he said. “I haven’t seen any new names there, but Pat is always man-to-man, and he has always done a good job of getting the most out of his kids.”
While Eagle Valley hasn’t been a threat in recent years, Maneotis said the Bulldogs will approach the Devils with caution.
“We can’t look past anybody,” he said. “We will fully focus on each opponent as we go in and see what we get out of it.”
Battle Mountain is more of a mystery.
Coming off a sub par 2008-2009 campaign, the Huskies have amassed a 4-2 record.
“They’re at the top of the conference by record,” he said. “They have a new coach, so they have a newfound fire in their program.”
The Huskies first-year coach, Tom Padilla, is the only new name Maneotis said he has seen.
“They have the same guys — I don’t see any guys who have transferred and moved in and made a difference,” he said. “It’s a bunch of kids working hard and working with what that new program has given them. They’ll get a lot of attention from a lot of people.”