This one was fun.
The atmosphere in the Moffat County locker room after the final home game of the season was jovial. That was expected, considering the Bulldogs had just snapped a five-year losing streak to their rivals, Steamboat Springs, and they did it in convincing fashion, 42-8.
“That was the most fun I’ve had all year,” said senior fullback and linebacker Brady Conner. “We did our jobs tonight and it is a great way to end the season.”
Coach Kip Hafey had similar sentiments.
“We executed well in all three phases of the game,” Hafey said. “We blocked, tackled and played aggressive the entire game.”
Moffat County took charge early. The defense forced a three-and-out. Then, the offense drove the ball 65 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown.
Hodge Raftopoulos, the touchdown machine, scored on a 1-yard dive. A bad snap led to a scramble by holder Zach Raftopoulos, but he was able to make the corner of the end zone for an 8-0 lead.
For the second consecutive game, the Bulldog defense came up big on a play following a touchdown. Moffat recovered a fumble one play after the kickoff. The offense didn’t show any mercy, and drove the ball 28 yards in four plays for the score. An early sign that it was the Bulldogs’ night happened on the scoring play when quarterback Bubba Ivers fumbled the ball, but Conner was right there to recover.
Another three-and-out for the Sailors set up an opportunity for the Bulldogs to run away with the game. And Ivers’ legs were the ones to do the running. A 20-yard run and a 33-yard touchdown run belonged to the sophomore on the next drive, making the score 22-0 with 3:45 remaining in the second quarter.
On the next possession, Steamboat was able to put up points on a drive that was aided by a 15-yard penalty by the Bulldogs. Four plays after the penalty, quarterback Christian Ramirez found Michael Savory in the end zone. A successful two-point conversion made it 22-8 with 2:28 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs didn’t allow for the Sailors to be the last scorers of the half. Aided by a kickoff return to Steamboat’s 45-yardline, the Bulldogs made quick work toward the end zone. In less than 1:45, Moffat marched 45 yards for a score. Hodge once again found the end zone on a 2-yard dive. The Bulldogs missed the conversion to lead 28-8 at halftime.
Big play offense
The way the Moffat offense lines up, with three in the backfield, it doesn’t look like an offense that will roll up the big plays. But on Friday, that wasn’t the case. The Bulldogs had six plays of 20 yards or more. The two biggest runs set up the team’s two touchdowns in the second half. The first was a 52-yard run by Conner and the second was a 67-yard run yard run by Wesley Chapman.
“I really thought I was in,” Conner said. “Then, they gave the ball to me twice more and I thought I was in then, too. We gave it to Hodge, and he finished it off.”
Initially Chapman crossed the goal line, but the play was called back 10-yards because of an illegal block call on Ivers.
“I released my guy when I was supposed to, but got the flag,” said Ivers, who had two other big blocks during the run. Then he turned to his teammate and said, “Wes you can have any of the touchdowns I scored this year for that one.”
Hafey said that his offense can get big plays if his guys do their jobs, which was evident most of Friday night.
“If we pull off the fakes and get downfield, our guys can make big plays,” he said. “You saw that tonight.”
The Bulldogs were successful enough on the ground – 50 times for 373 yards – that they only threw the ball once all game. Even before the second team guys came in at the beginning of the fourth quarter, seven Bulldogs had positive yardage.
“We can spread the ball around when we’ve got guys doing what they are supposed to do in this offense,” Hafey said.
Defense dogs Sailors
Possibly the only negative for the Bulldogs on the night was the defensive penalties. Moffat was called for seven defensive penalties for 85 yards. The Sailors ended up gaining 84 yards on offense.
“Our defensive line just dominated,” Conner said. “It was fun to out-physical a team like that.”
Mason Updike joined the defensive side of the ball on Friday after another linebacker was suspended on Thursday.
“It was tiring out there to do both,” he said. “But, we played well as a unit and it was a great effort.”
Updike and the other juniors faced a familiar face but in unfamiliar colors in the game. Steamboat running back Maury Mirante transferred from Moffat this summer.
“He was my best friend before he went to Steamboat,” Updike said. “We talked a little after the game, but during the game we just made sure to tackle him, and that was our talking.”
Mirante finished the night with negative seven yards on eight carries.
Seniors’ last stand
The seniors were able to finish their last regular-season game by singing the school song, a tradition after a victory. One especially happy senior was Drake Mullen, who got in on a handful of tackles in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy to finish like that,” he said. “It was fun to get in there and hear my name announced.”
Post-season chances slim
The post-season wild card points are hard to decipher, but it didn’t look good for the Bulldogs as scores came in Friday night.
The Western Slope teams did their jobs, with Palisade and Glenwood (winning on the final play of the game against Delta) getting wins. That helped the Bulldogs.
The nail in the playoff coffin might have been Frederick’s upset of Windsor, 15-7, which moved them into an automatic bid for the playoffs.
Coaches will find out the final official standings today.