In the end, there were just too many mistakes for Moffat County to overcome.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over six times and had a punt blocked to waste an excellent defensive performance in losing to Delta High School Friday at the Bulldog Proving Grounds, 21-14.
A week ago the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-2 Western Slope League) defense was swarming and forcing mistakes out of Steamboat Springs.
Again the defense delivered, forcing three turnovers and giving up just one drive of over 50 yards to the Panthers (3-1, 2-0), but it could not make up for the costly mistakes made by the offense.
“It was 21-14, (we had) six turnovers,” head coach Kip Hafey said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, there’s no other way to look at it. It’s hard to win a game when you turn the ball over six times.”
After tying the game at 14 in the fourth quarter, Moffat County had the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Delta forced a fourth down. Cordell Stroud broke through the line and blocked a Bubba Ivers punt, setting the Panthers up with great field position.
The situation was still in doubt when Moffat County forced an incompletion on third and 26, but was whistled for a roughing the passer penalty, resulting in an automatic first down.
Several plays later, running back Ryan Williams crossed the goal line on a six-yard run, giving the Panthers the decisive score with 3:56 remaining.
“I’ll tell you what, our kids never gave up, they fought and kept it at 21-14,” Hafey said. “When you have six turnovers, it could have been 52-14. They overcame a lot of adversity and I’m proud of them for that. But we have to take care of the ball.”
The Bulldogs were fortunate to even be within striking distance in the second half.
Moffat County turned the ball over on two fumbles in the first six minutes of the game, resulting in a quick 14 points from Delta. But the third and fourth fumbles of the half for the Bulldogs resulted in no more points for the Panthers.
A key moment came at the end of the half when MCHS sacked Delta quarterback Mitchell Whiteside with 10 seconds left. The Panthers had no timeouts left, and were not able to tack on a field goal to extend their lead going into the break.
“I’m really proud of (the defense),” Hafey said. “There were so many momentum changes with all those turnovers. The defense stepped up and played hard and kept us in the game.”
Michael Samuelson had a pair of one-yard rushing touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Moffat County was able to move the ball on several other occasions, but none of those drives resulted in scores, including three fumbles in Delta territory. That was the difference in the game.
“Our offense had some great drives,” Hafey said. “We got the ball inside the 20 and then gave it up. That’s what killed us tonight.”
It was a mistake-prone game from the start. Brayden Peterson fumbled the opening kickoff, which led to a quick Panthers score. They would later score on a 77-yard touchdown pass to Black after a Josh Pritchard fumble inside the five-yard line.
It was a difficult loss to take to a WSL opponent with similar league and playoff aspirations. But Hafey stressed the team could not dwell on the game.
“The season’s a long way from being over,” he said. “We’ve got to get on a winning streak and get back in the ‘W’ column.”
Moffat County plays at Eagle Valley next Friday, while Delta will take on Glenwood Springs at home.
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow more Bulldogs football coverage on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.