No overtime needed this week for the Moffat County High School football team.
Three forced turnovers and a dominating performance from both lines led the Bulldogs to a 34-14 win at Eagle Valley on Friday night.
“We work everyday on forcing turnovers,” Moffat coach Kip Hafey said. “This week, it paid off.”
On the other sideline, the perspective was painful.
“We had way too many mistakes,” Devils coach Joe Ramunno said. “It’s hard to overcome giving them the short fields like we did in the first half.”
In the first quarter, neither offense could get moving. Both teams has nearly identical results in their initial drives: Forty-yards gained, but failed fourth-down conversion attempts on the other teams’ 30-yard line.
On their second possession, the Bulldog line started to make some holes. Moffat’s “Thunder” formation looked a little different than it had the previous games, with Brady Conner, Hodge Raftopoulos and Mason Updike lined up in a parallel line to the offensive line.
But, it still had the same effect of three-yards and a cloud of dust. A 12-play drive that ate up 6 minutes 42 seconds for the ‘Dogs culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Raftopoulos.
Eagle Valley didn’t get one official play off on its next two drives. The Bulldogs forced a fumble on the first play after the first touchdown. The next time the Devils touched the ball, quarterback James VanDyke was picked off by Zach Raftopoulos. Both turnovers happened in Eagle Valley territory and resulted in Moffat touchdowns. The first was a one-yard dive by Bubba Ivers, the second a 1-yard dive by Hodge. The Bulldogs went in to halftime with a 21-0 lead.
“The early turnovers and touchdowns really pumped us up early,” senior lineman Cody Adams said. “We knew we could get the win going into halftime.”
But Ramunno has seen his fair share of football games and his halftime adjustments seemed to work for the Devils.
Eagle Valley went to a more pass-oriented focus to start the second half, and it immediately paid off.
Van Dyke found Miguel Dominguez for two big pass plays, one of 45-yard and another for nine yards. The latter was for a touchdown with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
The Devils appeared poised to gain some momentum after stopping the Dogs on their first possession of the second half.
But, the Bulldog defense had something to say about it.
Moffat’s Tyler Hildebrandt sacked Van Dyke for a 10-yard loss on the next drive. Then a fumble that was recovered by the Devils went for another eight-yard loss.
After the punt, Bubba Ivers stole any momentum the Devils had with a 68-yard keeper right up the middle to put the ‘Dogs up 27-7.
“(That play) was a great read by Bubba and center Michael Pankey,” Hafey said. “We set up that audible for those two if they felt the defense was too spread in the middle.”
The Bulldogs opened up for more big plays in the second half than they’d had all season in any game.
On his only pass of the game, Ivers hit Brady Conner for a 45-yard pass play. Hodge Raftopoulos also rumbled for a 46-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Hodge added the final Bulldog touchdown, and Eagle Valley scored once more to make the final score, 34-14.
The Bulldogs rushed the ball 47 times for 271 yards. The Devils had some success throwing the ball in the second half. Van Dyke finished the game 10 for 15 for 163 yards. The Devils gained 85 yards on the ground, most of that in the first half.
Hafey and Ramunno credited the Bulldog lines in the win.
“Our guys kept patient and they kept supporting each other,” Hafey said. “We blocked and tackled well tonight on our lines.”
Ramunno’s team knew what was coming, but couldn’t make the key stops.
“We prepared all week to play a goal-line defense against their run,” Ramunno said. “But, our effort wasn’t what we would have liked.”
The win gives the Bulldogs their first winning record of the season at 5-4, 4-2 in the Western Slope League. Each win gives the Bulldogs a higher power ranking and a better chance for the playoffs. Moffat went into Friday night’s game ranked 20th in Colorado’s Class 3A power rankings. The top 16 make it to playoffs.
“We’re one step closer,” Hafey said. “Now, it’s on to Steamboat.”
The Bulldogs finish the regular season against winless Steamboat Springs on Friday.