From the start, the homecoming game didn’t go as planned at the Bulldog Proving Grounds.
Moffat County hosted Montezuma-Cortez High School on Friday night in search of its second win of the season and a satisfying conclusion to Homecoming Week. But the Bulldogs turned the ball over seven times and couldn’t come back from an early deficit, falling 41-21 to the Panthers.
Cortez (3-5, 3-4 Western Slope League) sought to take the air out of the Craig crowd right off the bat, and it succeeded. The Panthers received the opening kickoff and kick returner Randy Haley faked a handoff to one teammate, then did a handoff to Ryan Gurney. With three possible ball carriers to pursue, the Bulldogs chose wrong and Gurney found space to bring the kick all the way back for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“They executed really well tonight and got some big plays,” Bulldogs head coach Kip Hafey said about Cortez. “But the big thing that killed us is turnovers. You can’t turn it over seven times and expect to win.”
Moffat County looked to tie the game midway through the first quarter but had a drive stall inside the 10 and turned it over on downs.
The Bulldogs defense stood tall for a quarter, giving up zero first downs to the Panthers.
But after another turnover on downs, Cortez moved the ball and got a 1-yard touchdown from Haley. On the next possession, Moffat County quarterback Joe Camilletti was intercepted, which led to a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gurney, making it 21-0.
Moffat County would respond with a long drive ending in a Brayden Peterson touchdown, but it couldn’t close the gap anymore. On three occasions, the Bulldogs had pulled to within two scores, but turnovers turned them away every time.
“We need to hold onto the ball better,” tailback Brett Loyd said. “That was what got us tonight.”
Hafey echoed that turnovers cripple a team’s chances to win.
“You talk about shooting yourself in the foot,” he said. “And then there’s a lot of momentum to recover from. So our defense was battling momentum and they had to deal with bad field position a lot of the night.”
The nail in the coffin came after a Camilletti interception with Moffat County trailing, 34-21. On the next play, Haley rumbled 41 yards for a score to put the game out of reach.
Moffat County now is 1-7 on the year, and it travels to Edwards to take on Battle Mountain next week, before hosting Palisade to end the season.
“I know we’re all angry about this one,” Loyd said. “But we’ll just go to practice tomorrow and next week and get ready for the next game.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.