Although an opening-game win for Moffat County High School football was nice, it was expected against a weaker opponent in Ridge View Academy
In week two, it’s a different story.
The Bulldogs will take on Rifle High School, the defending Western Slope League champions, in an important early-season matchup.
The Bears enjoyed an undefeated regular season in 2011 but were ousted in the state quarterfinals by Windsor High School.
Rifle sports a run early, run often-style offense that rarely puts the ball in the air. In the team’s first game against Coal Ridge High School, a 45-6 win, the Bears ran for 456 yards and passed for none.
Against Moffat County last year, Rifle won 48-6. They were able to avoid passing because star running back Ryan Moeller rumbled for 319 yards against the Bulldogs.
Moeller, the state’s leading rusher last season with 2,469 yards, is back for his senior season and picking up where he left off, going for 252 yards on 16 carries against Coal Ridge.
“Their running back is a tough kid,” head coach Kip Hafey said. “He’s over 200 pounds and fast. He probably had the best performance of any running back in the state last week.”
While the Bears lost their other dynamic rusher, Brandon Kittle, to graduation this season, they may have found a replacement. Kellin Leigh had 111 yards on nine carries in the season-opener.
The key for MCHS on defense will be staying disciplined against Rifle’s stacked formations, Hafey said.
“One of the things Rifle does a lot is they try to unbalance you and put a lot of guys on one side of the line,” he said. “We’ve got to get the right defensive calls in and shift to be in the position to make plays. The kids have got to be mentally sharp. If they are, they’re going to be successful against that offense.”
Another major change from last season’s game will be Rifle’s adjustments to the new MCHS offense. The Bulldogs gained over 500 yards against Ridge View and will be looking to have another strong offensive performance.
The Bulldogs spent extra on Thursday time on special teams preparing for the Bears’ variety of kickoffs.
“Sometimes they run up and squib it and then other times they’ll back off that and kick it deep, and sometimes they’ll try to pooch kick it to open space on the field,” Hafey said. “They’re trying to get the ball and they got it once against Coal Ridge, so there are a lot of things we had to work on in special teams”
As Moffat County’s first league game of the season, the Rifle game is important. Going against one of the top teams in the state (Rifle is ranked No. 1 in the Denver Post Football Poll) is also an opportunity to see where the Bulldogs stand.
“If you want to make the playoffs, you want to make a run at the title, these are the type of teams you need to beat,” Hafey said. “We’re excited for this opportunity and we’re going to go out and give everything we’ve got.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the game on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.