| CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldog football makes rip-roaring return with league win over Elizabeth

The surest way to rile up the Moffat County High School gridiron gang is to give them a week of competition followed by an unexpected break. All wound up and nowhere to go, the Bulldogs were sure to run right over whoever was next on the schedule.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon five hours from home as MCHS took its first win of the season as well as its first victory in the new 2A West League.

The Elizabeth Cardinals were the unwitting recipients of an extra eight days’ worth of pent-up energy as the Dogs earned a 35-21 win a week after MoCo missed a game against Englewood.

The Pirates’ COVID quarantine issue may have been a frustration for the Dogs as they were expecting to open conference play Oct. 16 on home turf, but never let it be said the Craig crew can’t turn lemons into lemonade.

The opening kick went to MCHS, and a slow-moving drive sparked to life with a conversion on third down as quarterback Ryan Peck drilled it to Carson Miller at midfield. The Dogs zipped along from there to get into the red zone, and it was Ethan Hafey who picked up the six points on a 5-yard slant pass from Peck less than four minutes into the game.

Hafey noted his QB read the Elizabeth coverage perfectly.

“It was amazing on that first drive of the game going down, Peck called an audible and we had a great connection,” Hafey said.

The Cards had little luck once they got the ball back, and Peck showed he was only getting his throwing arm warmed up, sending it to Donnie Quick on a long reception that got them near the Cardinal 20.

It was a short wait for the Bulldog sideline to celebrate again, as a catch by Caleb Frink got them another touchdown for the 14-0 advantage following a second PAT by kicker Chris Cox.

Elizabeth’s offense did little from there, but their defense buckled down to push MoCo back as the first quarter came to a close, helped along by Bulldog penalties. A high-arcing punt with an unfriendly bounce gave the Cardinals their first big break as well as their first time in Bulldog territory, starting from the 41.

As the Cardinal push began, they were aided considerably by their own fumble that was recovered with a drastic amount of penalty yardage tacked on to get them all the way to the Dogs’ 9-yard line to close the first period.

It took seven seconds in the second quarter for Elizabeth to get over the goal line from there as the MoCo lead was narrowed to 14-7.

The Bulldogs had to boot it again shortly after their possession, yet the subsequent three-and-out stretch by Elizabeth was full of penalties against the Cards, forcing them to punt from their own end zone.

The pigskin found its way back from the 40 as Peck sent it to Miller and Frink, the latter of whom scored on an 18-yard reception with seven minutes left in the first half.

The MoCo offense found itself slightly jinxed for the remainder of the second quarter as a double pass attempt resulted in an interception by Jace Perez and on the next possession, Peck fumbled on a scramble attempt.

However, both turnovers amounted to zilch for Elizabeth as the Bulldog D stood strong to deny them another entry on the scoreboard, including a sack by Brian Gonzales just before halftime.

MCHS coaches noticed a lull as the Dogs were back on the field in the third quarter, with the Cardinals pushing them around with a newfound confidence and gobbling up yardage.

A reprimand during a timeout was heard and heeded by the Dogs, perhaps too much so, as what would have been another sack by Gonzales instead wound up being a facemask penalty.

Head coach Lance Scranton said there were an abundance of calls he didn’t totally agree with, though he didn’t feel his athletes were showing low-quality play or poor sportsmanship amid the many flags.

“They weren’t flagrant, they were just penalties you get when you’re working hard. Work-hard penalties, you can forgive,” he said.

Elizabeth slowly edged into the red zone and were within sight a score, but a fourth and goal situation for the Cards saw Elizabeth QB Jason Weber tuck it and run only for Bulldog defensive end Logan Hafey to wrap up perfectly to keep Weber from touching the pylon right in front of the MoCo sideline.

The raucous energy that came with the stop was replaced by a cautious hope that starting a drive from the 1-yard line wouldn’t go awry for the Dogs. An incomplete pass didn’t help, but the next play proved to be the highlight of the day.

Peck handed off to Frink as he had many times before, but Frink — who had 98 rushing yards against Meeker — found more room to run than usual, passing the 10, the 20, the 30…

Ultimately, the Bulldog senior got his third TD of the day on a 99-yard breakaway as teammates were losing their minds cheering and likening Frink to NFL powerhouse Derrick Henry.

However, Frink took little credit for himself, later stating that “phenomenal” blocking from the O-line made it all possible.

Peck agreed that linemen performed flawlessly on the play.

“Caleb must have had 30-foot holes to work with,” Peck said of the line’s ability to create space.

Heading into the final quarter up 28-7, MCHS players no doubt had momentum on their side, but a special teams hiccup came early in the fourth as a low snap to Cox on a punt attempt resulted in a deflected kick as a Cardinal opponent came flying at him.

Still, Elizabeth couldn’t capitalize on the prime field position when a fierce tackle by Chris Sanderson jarred the ball loose, with Cox diving on the newfound opportunity and gaining the recovery, proving that, much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, great things happen when multiple Chrises work in tandem.

“That’s what happens when we all do our job,” Sanderson said with a smile.

Cox added the wait leading up to the game helped, as well.

“Two weeks without a game, then we kick some butt,” he laughed.

MoCo coaches began working in more of their younger talent late in the game, and sophomore Evan Atkin did much of the work from the backfield, with multiple carries that saw him weaving through the Cardinal defense with ease.

Atkin got his first TD of the season on a rush up the middle from within the Cardinal 10, while Cox moved to five for five on PATs, the senior Bulldog having yet to fail to split the uprights this fall.

Juggling the lineup had some drawbacks, and whether it was an overeager anxiety by younger Bulldog athletes or an increased rigidity by the refs, the Cardinals were the beneficiaries as late penalty yardage gave Elizabeth more and more turf. Bulldog coaches cried foul on an unseen holding call against the Cards, which gave the TD to Elizabeth on a 30-yard bomb to Perez with less than 90 seconds remaining.

Down 35-14 at that point, the Cardinals knew a comeback win was a tall order, yet they threw caution to the wind and came up with the ball on an onside kick.

A hasty throw by Elizabeth went right into Quick’s hands in the end zone, but the interception was nullified thanks to a pass interference call elsewhere, while the Dogs were then shortly after penalized for roughing the passer.

With roughly 30 seconds still on the clock, the Cards scored again on a wobbly 3-yard lob to Ryan Connelly, and the onside kick tactic worked again as Elizabeth earned one final possession.

Scranton said he wasn’t too concerned with giving up a few more points than he’d like.

“You can beat a team by 14 or 40, whatever, that’s a wash. We wanted to get our young guys some experience, and that’s more important than really putting it to a team,” he said, adding that the big takeaway for the week was a need to tighten up on special teams.

Moffat County was in no mood to give up anything else at this point; a weary defense pounded away at the Cardinals until it was 4th and 30, Elizabeth’s final pass nearly picked off by both Atkin and Quick.

With four red zone stands, the Bulldog defense had far more time on the field, though Scranton said he was just as pleased with the offense.

“Ryan took a huge step today at quarterback, just being patient and letting the game come to him,” he said. “He was taking shots where he needed to and holding onto the ball or throwing it away when he needed to.”

Peck’s passing was up in every way from the previous game, with a higher completion rate — 12 for 21 — for 159 yards and three TD’s, now ranked third in the league in throwing yardage.

Quick had the best receiving numbers with 76 yards on three catches, the longest of which was 36. Miller’s two grabs amounted to 34, while Frink scored on each of his catches for 32 total yards. Peck sent it to Ethan Hafey and Atkin twice each, as well as a short shot to Blake Juergens.

Frink — currently the only 2A West player with five touchdowns — is third in the conference in rushing yardage, adding 168 against the Cardinals on 15 carries. Atkin’s eight gave him 44, while Peck gained 15 from four runs, and a reverse to Ethan Hafey amounted to nine yards on a single carry.

Ethan Hafey was the day’s most frequent tackler at 12 total, eight solo. Joe Campagna and Taran Teeter each gained eight hits, with Campagna also credited with a sack. Logan Hafey and Corey Scranton each had six, while Gonzales and Quick notched five apiece.

Now 1-1 overall, MCHS is ranked second in the West at 1-0 in league play. The unusual unfolding of the schedule this season puts 0-3 Elizabeth at fourth, given neither Englewood nor Middle Park have faced a league team.

While Middle Park has had two straight weeks with no games due to COVID complications, Englewood rolled straight out of quarantine to a Friday meeting with Resurrection Christian that the Pirates lost 32-0.

Still, the big news in the conference was the matchup between Delta and Woodland Park. Despite routing Elizabeth 34-0 a week earlier, 2-1 Woodland was on the receiving end of a beatdown against their Panther doppelgangers, as Delta claimed a 27-2 victory to improve to 3-0.

Woodland Park is scheduled next for MCHS, who host their Homecoming game Friday, Oct. 30.

The entire roster is eager to finally have a home game as well as the possibility of capturing another win.

“I think the big thing is we need to pick up the tempo and keep grinding,” Ethan Hafey said. “Woodland put a beating on these guys (Elizabeth), so now we’ve gotta turn it up.”

Moffat County football back in business

In a season that has been full of surprises, Moffat County High School football will be back on the road this week after a bump in the schedule that has had both pros and cons for the Bulldog bunch.

MCHS officially kicks off its 2A West League slate this weekend, traveling to Elizabeth for a Saturday matchup.

The game comes a week after what was originally meant to be the start of the league run as well as the Dogs’ home opener. Plans for the big night were scuttled when the Englewood Pirates announced they were under quarantine for COVID-19 and could not set sail for Craig.

The cancellation was the second straight week such an incident has happened to Bulldogs’ planned opponents, with the blue and white originally set to travel to Manitou Springs in early October, only for the Mustangs to call it off due to quarantine. Instead, rather serendipitously, MCHS wound up competing in Meeker, thanks to the Cowboys being in a similar situation.

Head coach Lance Scranton noted that organizers put out feelers and contacted two teams that also were facing a gap in the schedule for Oct. 16 — even offering to travel instead of host — but both declined due to the time crunch.

In any other year, the cancellation by the Pirates — who will ostensibly begin league play as normal after their quarantine period is complete — might have given the Dogs a win by forfeit, though the guidelines by Colorado High School Activities Association simply takes the match off the calendar.

“According to CHSAA, they’re just calling it a no-contest because they don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the rest of the season. This could be something that reoccurs, but we’re obviously hoping it doesn’t,” he said. “We’re in the middle of something that’s totally uncharted, so we have to do what we can.”

Moffat County’s start to the season was a strong one against Meeker, trailing the Cowboys 20-14 at halftime. A one-score game quickly went off the rails, though, and while neither side scored in the fourth quarter, dual Meeker touchdowns after the break sealed the deal.

“I’d much rather play a team that’s challenging and exposes the things we can get better at than a team that makes us overconfident,” he said.

Ultimately, the first two weeks have been a mixed bag, Scranton said. With stronger competition than they expected, the Dogs certainly benefited from a high-quality opponent while coaches got a glimpse of where they can improve.

“We’ve got to stay away from turnovers and convert on third downs, and on the other side of the ball get off the field on third down and make it a fourth instead of letting them get a first,” he said. “If we play one more quarter better than we did in Meeker, we’ve got a different game.”

No game against Englewood also meant for more practice time, though the extra preparation can only help so much.

“The kids are antsy, they just want to play,” Scranton said. “If we’d had the game against Englewood, it would’ve told us more. From your first game to your second game is where you make some pretty big improvements since the kids are shaking off the cobwebs and really getting ready.”

Final game analysis from the match-up with the Cowboys showed quarterback Ryan Peck with 107 passing yards and a 50-percent completion rate, able to target teammates Caleb Frink, Brian Gonzales, Blake Juergens, Ethan Hafey and Donnie Quick. Frink, who scored both Bulldog TDs against Meeker, had the lion’s share of rushing yardage with nearly 100 on the ground, as well as more than 40 yards in kick and punt returns, plus 36 from an early interception.

The Bulldog defense shone with 70 total tackles, 15 of which involved linebacker Joe Campagna, while Hafey and Taran Teeter were close behind in hits. The MoCo D was well-recognized last season, with Campagna and linemen Daniel Cruz and Corey Scranton earning All-Conference First Team, while Teeter, Logan Hafey, and 2020 Dude Dent winner Dagan White each picked up Honorable Mention.

Even with only one game under their belts, MCHS players represent well in current league statistics, though numbers on MaxPreps are incomplete, with nothing entered for Elizabeth, a team which Bulldog coaches have seen less of than they’d like in terms of game film.

“You can only get game film a week out, so we’ve only gotten one from them so far,” Scranton said. “They only have one from us too, so it evens out in the end.”

He added it’s a “gentleman’s agreement” to not expect opponents to give more than they get in return.

“It’s just nice to have as much information as possible, especially for a team you don’t know much about in a conference that you’re not used to playing,” he said.

The Cardinals — by far the easternmost school within the newly configured conference — stand at 0-2 this year, facing a rough start to October after an agreeable previous season.

Elizabeth claimed a 6-4 record in 2019, finishing third in the 2A Tri-Peaks League and earning a playoff berth in which they fell 8-0 to Faith Christian in the opening round.

The team faced former league rival Lamar Oct. 2 to start this fall, downed 41-20 by the Savages. Their second game was even more trying as they took on West League foe Woodland Park, who shut out the Cardinals 34-0.

Though there are minimal stats available on MaxPreps, details from their first two games show the Elizabeth defense allowed 277 rushing yards and 175 receiving, while the Cardinal offense suffered five interceptions and three sacks by Lamar. Woodland Park racked up 219 passing yards and 204 on the turf, plus two picks.

Still, Elizabeth has averaged two interceptions per game and recovered three fumbles, so they have put up a fight each time.

Besides the immediate game this weekend, the details also give the Dogs an idea of what they’ll be facing in the coming weeks.

“It’s always a good measuring stick to know what your upcoming opponent is like, looking from that perspective,” Scranton said.

Moffat County High School students gather with signage after Bulldog football’s game in Meeker.
Andy Bockelman / for Craig Press

Following the Elizabeth game, Moffat County is scheduled to be at home for the following two weeks, bringing Woodland Park to the Bulldog Proving Grounds Oct. 30, which will serve as MoCo Homecoming. Nov. 6, the squad will host its Senior Night before duking it out with Delta.

The end of the regular season takes place Nov. 14 against Middle Park in Granby, capping off three consecutive weeks against teams named the Panthers.

All games are tenuous based on pandemic conditions, Scranton said, adding there’s still no certainty for any school in the state.

“It’s sort of a week-to-week thing. That’s why it’s so difficult this year,” he said. “There’s not much we can do now except look forward to Elizabeth, travel down there, have a good game, get a win and go to 1-1 and take it from there.”

Seniors lead the way for Bulldogs at state cross country

Seniors led the way for Moffat County High School at the 2020 State Cross Country Meet in Colorado Springs on Saturday as the girls team finished tied for 10th and the boys ended up in 13th. 

“We had some great seniors that got the opportunity to end their HS careers at the state meet,” head coach Todd Trapp said. “That is a very exciting opportunity for them.” For the boys, senior Keaton Knez finished his career by leading the way in 49th place with a time of 18 minutes, 24 seconds for the 5k race. Unlike the last month of races, where Knez usually had a couple of teammates close to him, the boys’ had a sizeable gap after their lead runner. Coming in as the second Bulldog was freshman Owen Gifford, who traversed the course in 19:04.7 and was in 66th place. Gifford improved more than 90 seconds from previously running the state course in mid-september, which was a highlight for the boys team. 

After Gifford was junior Carter Behrman, who improved enough throughout the season that he was not on varsity when they first ran the state course. He finished in 73rd in 19:31.9. Following Berhman ws junior Kale Johnson in 77th (19:40.2), junior Logan Hafey in 79th (19:46.5) and sophomore Boden Reidhead in 92nd (20:29.9). 

The boys scored 299 points and were 13th out of 15 teams that qualified. Other regional qualifiers Alamosa and Gunnison were fourth and fifth respectively, and regional champ, Gunnison’s Alex Baca, was also the state champion. 

For the girls senior Kelsey McDiffett capped her four-year effort in 40th place in a time of 21:26. The difference in team placings was the ability for the top girls to stay together. McDiffett was 14 seconds ahead of junior Halle Hamilton (44th place) and 22 seconds in front of Emma Jones in 46th. Junior Bree Meats and senior Alayna Behrman ran close together with Meats finishing 74th in 23:11 and Behrman in 76th in 23:21. Rounding out the girls’ effort was senior Tiana Nichols in her first state meet in 90th (24:40).

The girls finished tied with Salida for 10th while regional competitors Basalt and Aspen finishing third and fourth respectively. One of the biggest individual surprises of all races was Basalt’s Katelyn Maley winning the race, instead of her teammate Sierra Bower, who was the defending champion and favorite, and instead finished fifth. 

“Our kids worked super hard this season to get to the state meet,” Trapp said. “And we are proud of them for their accomplishments in a shortened season and how much they were able to improve with limited time and training.”

Other note: Moffat County High School alum Kelly Christiansen added more awards to his stellar coaching career. His Niwot boys and girls teams were both team champions in Class 4A. 

Moffat County High School cross country runners prepare for the end of the road at state

It’s been long enough since a Moffat County High School girls cross country team did not qualify for the state meet that 17-year head coach Todd Trapp strained to remember when it was.

“I have an idea but not sure exactly the year,” he said. “It’s been a while.”

Going into the regional meet last Friday in Durango, that too-long-to-remember streak was not for certain. Both Bulldog teams were seeded fourth and only the top three teams qualified for the season finale. 

“Honestly, I felt like we were going to do what we needed to do to get to state,” said senior and now four-time state qualifier Kelsey McDiffett. “We all had to step up, but that’s what we do on this team.”

McDiffett’s premonition played out and both the ladies and gentleman finished third and will hop on a bus bound for Colorado Springs on Friday. They will make the trip with momentum from a well-run regional meet. 

“I honestly cried a little bit,” said senior Alayna Behrman about the regional experience. “We started out not even knowing if we were going to have a season (because of COVID) so we couldn’t take the season for granted and we really had to step up.”

Senior Keaton Knez led his team to a qualification with his best time of the year on the 5k course.

“I think we were all so ready,” he said, “It was definitely one of the highlights of my career when we knew we had locked in a spot.”

After the emotional regional meet, the Bulldogs will take on a state meet that is going to be nothing like they’ve ever experienced. Typically the runners turn the final corner to the roar of a crowd in the arena at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. This year there will not be a crowd there, or at least a very limited cheering section. Most of the Bulldogs experienced the eerie feeling at the pre-state meet in mid-September. 

“Running into the stadium with no fans is just so weird,” McDiffett said. “It’s a challenge to get motivated to go after that next runner when you’re so used to hearing and seeing fans.”

Another adjustment for this year is that teams will not line up and start together as a group. The Colorado High School Activities Association organized the meet into four waves of 25 runners, with each wave organized by qualifying times. For example, Knez will be the only Bulldog boy to start in wave two, while his teammates will all be in either three or four. Each wave will start 45 seconds apart.

“It will be like a race within a race,” Trapp said. “It’s interesting because sometimes at state a runner can get caught up going out way too fast and get stuck in the wrong pace because of the hype or they are too apprehensive at the beginning and never get to where they should be. This year each runner will be in a smaller group of kids they match up with.”

Knez said making adjustments is nothing new in 2020.
“Because of our limitations to smaller meets this year we haven’t had much of a chance to see other runners from around the state,” he said. “But with the waves, it’s like we just go after the 25 in our group and get in the hunt and make the adjustment.” 

Senior Tiana Nichols made it onto the varsity team for the first time in her career after fighting through injuries as an underclassmen. She said that the different format will be a side note for her.

“I’m just excited to get out there and compete,” she said. “Last year I was there but as an alternate so I just went through the motions in the warm up.”

After Monday’s workout the Bulldogs might feel like they are going through the motions a bit because they get to enjoy some easier practices. 

“Now the conversation moves to, ‘let’s not just be happy we made it, but let’s go have a great race,’” Trapp said. “Most of the kids will have a chance to see how much they improved since pre-state.”

The only time the Bulldogs traveled beyond the Wester Slope to compete was the pre-state meet at Norris-Penrose. With the exception of three athletes who didn’t make that trip, they will be running against the clock to see how far they’ve come.

“I know I’m really starting to feel like I’m finally putting it together,” Knez said. “It’s going to be the end of a really good story for four of us.” 

The end of the weird and wacky, yet still successful, season for the MCHS teams will start at  noon for the boys and 45 minutes later for the girls.

Moffat County-Meeker match-up heralds football return to Northwest Colorado

The feeling of Friday night lights was palpable in the confines of Meeker High School’s Starbuck Stadium as two nearby squads who haven’t faced each other on the varsity level in years squared off to begin a heavily anticipated football season.

Moffat County High School’s first game was a tough test of wills against the Meeker Cowboys, one in which the Bulldogs took a 36-14 defeat.

However, it wasn’t without plenty to be proud of for the blue and white.

Three plays after the opening kickoff, the first MoCo gridiron highlight of the season was official when senior Caleb Frink snatched an interception that he nearly ran all the way back to the end zone, stopped short at the Cowboy 6-yard line.

As the Bulldog offense took over, Frink took the hike in a wildcat formation, pounding his way forward to get the touchdown.

“It was pretty exciting to get that right off the bat,” Frink said with a smile after the game.

A PAT by fellow senior Chris Cox — a soccer player who’s found a niche lending his toe to a different sport — put the Bulldogs ahead 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.

It was a lead MoCo held for most of the first quarter, but a steady drive by the Cowboys showed Meeker wasn’t to be trifled with on their home turf. Late in the period, they at last got the TD on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Ryan Phelan. The resultant two-point conversion put them up 8-7.

The Bulldog offense, led by QB Ryan Peck, got a little yardage to follow, but were forced to punt, with Meeker responding quickly. The first quarter closed with a 38-yard reception, while the opening play of the second period saw the Cowboys go for the trick play, a reverse followed by a pass that Spud White reeled in and took 35 yards for another score.

The shutdown of the conversion left it 14-7, with the Dogs raring to go again with the pigskin. An array of carries and catches by Frink, Ethan Hafey and Donnie Quick got them down the field, with a pass interference call adding some progress. Once in the red zone, it looked like the Dogs might turn it over as the Cowboy defense dug in deep and an illegal procedure call also pushed them back.

Still, on 4th and goal with 10 yards to go, Peck found Frink right at the goal line, and all that was next was to take one more step for the TD catch, followed by another successful kick by Cox.

The Dogs didn’t have the same luck on the other end of the field with a 4th down involved; on 4th and 4, a Moffat County offsides call handed the 1st down to Meeker, and a few carries later, Phelan got the Cowboys back in the lead for good on an eight-yard draw play, though the two-point attempt fell flat to leave it 20-14.

The tally stayed on the scoreboard through halftime as the Bulldogs were unable to get another score.

While the energy may have been largely even in the first half, from the third quarter on it was almost all Meeker mojo on display.

The Bulldog drive ended as quickly as it started, with a fumble at midfield giving it to the Cowboys, who wasted little time with another TD, this time a 17-yard catch by White, and another twofer conversion to make it 28-14. Meeker’s offense was right back on the field after a MoCo three-and-out, though the Bulldogs stood tall to prevent the Cowboys from flipping the fourth.

However, another turnover was in store as Peck got back in the pocket deep in Bulldog territory only for a pass to go horribly awry, bouncing off his teammate’s hands into the clutches of Meeker defender Cooper Main, who bolted for the end zone for his team’s final TD with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Though neither squad would score from there, the pick scenario played out twice more as Bulldog receivers lost control of the ball and sent it straight to Meeker.

“That’s the way the ball bounces sometimes,” MCHS head coach Lance Scranton surmised. “We’re playing a quality team, so that’s what happens.”

Peck said he couldn’t help but blame himself for the pick-offs, a problem that also plagued him a year ago. The MoCo junior started all 10 games at quarterback in his sophomore season, amassing 1,130 throwing yards and eight touchdown passes — putting him in the top five of Colorado Preps’ 2020 returning QBs for the fall — a high interception rate severely crunched his passer rating.

“There’s always a better spot to put the ball. Everyone says they’re not on me, but they’re all on me,” he said of the three INT’s. “At the end of the day, they’re working their butts off to try and get open, so I’ve got to put it in better spots to make better plays.”

With exactly 100 combined yards rushing and throwing — including 12 yards on the ground — Peck went 88 passing yards for the night, 11 completions on 24 attempts, the longest of which was 22 yards to Frink.

Peck said he’s working to “play smart” this season, whether that means finding good targets or avoiding a sack by getting off a last-second shovel pass.

“Taking a five-yard loss could mean we don’t get a first down,” he said.

Frink had 55 yards from five catches as well as 98 rushing yards on 19 carries, his longest sprint 17 yards. Evan Atkin ran three times for a total 10 yards, while Ethan Hafey — the team’s top returning receiver with 153 yards in 2019, including a team best 78-yard TD reception last year against Coal Ridge — earned four catches for 26 yards and ran twice for a total of 18.

On the other side of the ball, a stalwart defense was led in tackles by Joe Campagna with 13 and 11 for Taran Teeter, each gaining eight solo. The two were the best of the bunch in hit numbers last year with 92 and 90, respectively, in the top five of 2A Western Slope League players.

Campagna — who had two tackles for loss against Meeker — was also 2019’s sacks leader, credited with 5.5, ranked fourth in the conference.

Following in tackle totals were Logan Hafey with six, and Ethan Hafey and Frink each with five.

The game was perhaps most memorable for Frink, the only Moffat County player who has faced Meeker at the varsity level, having seen the Cowboys as part of the Grand Valley roster, both teams in the 1A Western Slope.

“I’ve played these guys for a couple years now, and I feel like we could have beat them, but some plays didn’t go our way,” he said. “It was a good game, and we both fought hard. We’re a pretty young team, so this was a good one to get out of the way and get the first-game jitters out.”

Frink’s skills as a safety helped him commit early to Colorado School of Mines, boasting a junior season at Grand Valley that saw him rush for 221 yards and provide 73 tackles and two interceptions for the Cardinal defense.

The season opener was ultimately a positive experience, Scranton said, noting that playing against a powerhouse opponent like Meeker strengthens his players far more than an early win over a middling team.

“Meeker’s probably going to run the table this year, and we’re only going to get better from this,” he said. “Everyone hates losing, but if we can learn something from this, then it’s not a loss.”

More specifically, the lessons to be learned are receivers getting control of their catches and completing the job defensively on 3rd and 4th down situations.

“Them turning those into 1st downs, that really killed us tonight,” Scranton said. “They took some chances, we took some chances, but it didn’t go our way. Still got some work to do, but that’s why we’re out here.”

The short and sweet fall season approved by CHSAA immediately jumps from non-conference play to the league slate, and the Bulldogs’ newly aligned 2A West schedule gets going Friday, Oct. 16 at home as Moffat County meets Englewood at the Bulldog Proving Grounds for the home opener.

The two teams are each 0-1, with the Pirates narrowly missing the W in their first game against La Junta, downed 22-19.

Scranton expects the home advantage will help players slightly, though what he and the rest of the coaching staff have emphasized is an attitude of gratitude that the season is even happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am just glad we’re playing football,” he said.

Bulldog Harriers outperform rankings to qualify for state meet

Both Moffat County High School cross country teams and their coaches knew going into the Class 3A Region 1 meet in Durango, that a trip to state was not guaranteed. They hopped on the bus for the long trip back home on Friday with tickets to the state meet punched. 

“All week we talked about the teams we knew we had to beat and knowing the matchups we had to win,” head coach Todd Trapp said. “Every spot mattered to get to state and I’m really proud of how well everyone raced.” 

On paper, the Bulldog harriers were on the outside-looking-in going into the meet. According to CHSAAnow.com both teams went into the region meet seeded fourth. In a normal year that would mean that they were seeded to be the last team to qualify for the state meet. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the state meet limitations only allow the top three teams from each region to go to state this year.

Trapp said his athletes did not go into the meet expecting super-human efforts and regional titles, but with a road map to get to Colorado Springs next week. 

“We knew on the boys side that it was probably going to come down to us and Aspen for the third spot,” he said. “For the girls, Aspen and Basalt were pretty far out front, but we thought we could mix it up with Alamosa.”

That is exactly how it played out for the ‘Dogs. Alamosa, who was moved into Region 1 this year, and Gunnison set the pace for the boys with their top five runners scoring 47 and 61 points respectively. The Bulldogs packed it up, and despite having no finisher in the top 10, were able to secure a third-place finish with 116 points. Aspen was a distant fourth with 141 points. 

The Boys in Blue were lead by senior Keaton Knez who finished the 5,000 meter race in 13th (17 minutes, 39 seconds), junior Kale Johnson (15th, 17:56), junior Carter Behrman (22nd, 18:26), sophomore Boden Reidhead, (32, 18:53), freshman Owen Gifford (34, 18:56) and junior Logan Hafey (35, 19:10).

This season races were divided into waves of 25 runners, with each wave separated by 60 seconds. Trapp said each of the boys knew their role in their wave.

“Keaton, Kale and Carter knew where they needed to be in the first wave and really competed like they knew they could,” he said. “Boden, Owen and Logan got in there for the second wave and made some inroads.” 

The fast times were also something to write home about. “I’m sure they were excited to see those times drop,” Trapp said. “I know Keaton had felt like he was stuck in the 18s and he busted that open today.”

The team with a target on its back for the Moffat girls was Alamosa. The Mean Moose came into the meet as the favorites to join front runners Basalt and Aspen in Cheyenne Mountain next week. They finished better than the Bulldogs in their only shared event in the middle of September, but Trapp had the feeling that his ladies were ready to change that.

“Our girls had really come along lately and I had a feeling they were going to be ready for the challenge,” he said. “Just like with the boys, every spot mattered and they went after it.” 

Similar to the boys, the girls did not have a runner up front, but the pack of senior Kelsey McDiffett (9th, 20:24), junior Halle Hamilton (11th, 20:24) and junior Emma Jones (13th, 20:45) kept the score low in the first wave. As the second wave of athletes started coming through the Lady Bulldogs were right in the hunt with Alamosa’s pack. Junior Bree Meats (31st) senior Alayna Behrman (35th) and senior Tiana Nichols (51st).

“Bree, Alayna and Tiana had great races to compliment how well our top three finished and we pulled it off,” Trapp said. 

As the scores came in, Aspen and Basalt, both top-5 teams in Class 3A pulled away with 51 and 57 points, respectively. And the last ticket punched went to the Bulldogs with 99 points, to Alamosa’s 108. Head-to-head the difference maker was Jones’ 13th-place finish compared to Alamosa’s No. three coming in 20th, and Behrman’s 35th to the Mean Moose’s 40th place finish in the fifth runner score. 

A cherry on the top for the Bulldogs’ strong performance was that they were the only school to qualify both teams for state.

“We couldn’t take qualifying for granted this year,” Trapp said. “In the middle of the season I wasn’t sure if we’d have anyone go. Both teams came a long way from that point to today.”

Full results from Friday’s 3A Region 1 cross country meet can be found here.

Moffat County golfer Dave Andujo excels at state tourney; Bulldog football back in action while moving season opener closer to home

While a handful of fall athletes at Moffat County High School end their season on a high note, another bunch who bear the blue and white are hoping to start things off on the right foot.

An elite club

Dave Andujo may be a Bulldog, but at many points of the 3A CHSAA State Championships, he was soaring with the birds.

Andujo placed 31st during the final golf tournament of the season, shooting back-to-back 80’s at the two-day event at Gunnison’s Dos Rios Golf Club.

Though it was two days of true competition, head coach Tim Adams added the MoCo junior must have played 63 total holes at the location from Saturday through Tuesday, including an unofficial practice round and the official 18 Sunday to get everyone familiar with the setting.

Day 1 of the tourney started strong for Andujo as he begun on Dos Rios’ back nine. Breaking even on the first five holes, he saw his first bogie on Hole 15 only to right himself with an eagle on 16, earning a 3 on the Par 5.

Moffat County High School golfer Dave Andujo, left, and coach Tim Adams take a break from practice on the back nine of Yampa Valley Golf Course. Andujo shot back-to-back 80’s to place 31st this week at the 3A CHSAA State Championships.
Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press

Though it isn’t the first time in his golf career he’s gotten the coveted double birdie, he was especially pleased with the circumstances on what amounted to the longest stretch of the course at 529 yards.

“I hit a good drive, I hit a decent second shot and then made an insane putt for eagle,” Andujo said of the tourney highlight. “I was probably out only 20 feet or so, but I was off the back of the green and it was really, really steep. It was a double breaker, so it was a near-impossible putt, but I somehow managed to make it.”

Another par and a +2 rounded out the back nine as he finished with a 37, only one stroke above the Par 36 back nine. The front, Par 35, was a different matter, as a triple on Hole 4 was his biggest struggle of the tourney, still ending the front with a respectable 43, tied with two other competitors for 28th.

The opening day of the championships saw scores among the 84 athletes as low as 69 — 3A Region 4 champ, Nic Pevny, of Aspen, who went on to claim the state title with a 140 — and as high as 106.

Being right on the edge of the top third of the leaderboard after the first 18 holes, Andujo was thrilled to be in much better shape than his sophomore year of state. In 2019, he placed 76th with a first day score of 96 followed by a disastrous second round in which he shot a 101.

“Much better than last year,” he said, adding that his overall tempo was right where he wanted it to be, as was his focus on the short game.

The Tuesday round started even more promising than Monday’s, with a birdie to start the front nine that was bookended with another -1 on Hole 9. Despite several bogeys, Andujo shot no higher than a 6 and ended the front with a 38.

“He only hit his driver, I think, four times on the front nine (Tuesday). The front nine, you really don’t need that, so that kinda helped,” Adams said. “Tournament golf, you have to really concentrate, so it’s mentally taxing too.”

Adams said the young golfer didn’t have the same energy for the back nine, where he ended with a 42. On the plus side, weariness was setting in for everyone, and the second day saw Andujo bumped up to tie for 27th among the single-day tallies.

“It’s a lot of golf, essentially you’re talking four days,” Adams said. “Most of it was walking. We walked those nine holes Saturday and walked half of it Sunday before they gave us a cart. He was definitely tired by the time we got done, but he really did a great job, just a huge improvement over last year.”

Adams and Andujo are both already looking forward to next fall and the prospects it could bring for Moffat County golf.

“It’s been fun to watch how he’s matured since last year,” Adams said of Andujo. “He’s always been talented, but just the way that he handled himself this year with adversity, it’s been much better. I’m hopeful that his success will motivate and interest other kids coming out for golf and working hard. Golf is what you make of it.”

The last ride

Though Colorado State High School Rodeo Association closed out the autumn season in September, their neighbor to the north had one final hurrah during October’s first weekend, and MCHS athletes were among the cowboys and cowgirls making a final fall statement.

Amber Salazar is on the board in both pole bending and breakaway roping, her stronger ranking 12th in poles. She kept up in points last weekend in Rock Springs, Wyoming, earning fifth in poles and eighth in breakaway’s first day.

Donnie Quick remains ranked second in Wyoming rodeo’s steer wrestling standings, placing fifth in the event’s first day and winning the second round, a performance that puts him four points shy of the season lead behind Midwest’s Kall Mayfield.

Wyoming will host multiple cutting events throughout the late fall, winter and early spring with full rodeos coming back in 2021 starting in Laramie.

Game on!

After months of uncertainty throughout 2020 that continued well into what would have been the usual high school football season, the Bulldog gridiron program is bustling once again with pigskin players ready to get started this weekend.

MCHS football kicks off anew at 7:30 p.m. Friday as the Dogs travel to Meeker to begin the season.

Originally, MoCo athletes were scheduled to face off Saturday afternoon with Manitou Springs, only for the hosting school to cancel. But, organizers didn’t have to search far to find a new opponent, with Meeker also facing a gap in their schedule thanks to a cancellation by Ignacio.

Though the drive will be considerably shorter, the Cowboys are likely to be much more competitive than the Manitou Mustangs, based purely on previous season standings.

Whereas Manitou finished fall 2019 last place in the 2A Tri-Peaks League with a 2-7 record, 9-2 Meeker swept the 1A Western Slope and saw only one regular season defeat, 42-28, to eventual state champs Limon.

The Cowboys also made it as far as the 1A quarterfinals where they were crushed 41-6 by Centauri.

In recently released rankings based on coach polls, Meeker stands at third in the 1A division.

However, any kind of expectations for this fall are largely guesswork, given that the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the entire state, cancelling all high school spring sports and denying athletes the kind of offseason preparation they’d usually engage in during camps, scrimmages and workouts.

Colorado High School Activities Association’s plans to push football and multiple other fall sports to the newly dubbed Schedule C — late winter and early spring — was not met warmly by many schools statewide, leading to an adjustment to allow schools to play a shortened fall football schedule.

The battle involved is only one reason MoCo head coach Lance Scranton said the season ahead will be a unique one.

Moffat County High School’s Ryan Peck lets loose a pass in a 2019 playoff game against Sterling. MCHS football kicks off Friday in Meeker.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press File

“We’re just looking forward to even being able to play,” he said.

With four of the six teams that last year constituted the 2A Western Slope League opting to stick with Schedule C, Moffat County and Delta — voted the No. 1 fall team in 2A’s coaches poll — were realigned with Englewood, Woodland Park, Elizabeth and Middle Park to form the 2A West.

MCHS will host Englewood Oct. 16 for the home opener, with Friday night home games set for Oct. 30 with Woodland Park and Nov. 6 with Delta. Saturday afternoon road games take place Oct. 24 in Elizabeth and Nov. 14 in Granby.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re used to traveling,” Scranton said. “Every team we’re playing has only had as much time to prepare as we have, so there’s a heightened sense of trying to get things done. That makes it a little more challenging as coaches. We’re used to installing certain packages we think will work against certain teams, but we’ve had none of that this year.”

Delta is the only team MCHS has faced in recent years, with the 2019 Panthers losing the conference title to Rifle, only to beat Basalt in the 2A state semifinals and later fall to Sterling 27-19 in the finals.

Now ranked third in 2A, Sterling’s 12-1 run last season included a postseason blowout of the Bulldogs, 56-14, MoCo’s return to the playoffs after a three-year drought.

The Dogs went 5-5 in 2019, and despite going 1-4 in league play, a 4-0 start to the schedule was indicative of a hugely competitive 2A WSL, with MCHS, Rifle, Basalt and Delta the only four schools in the 2A division to remain undefeated before starting the conference stage.

Losing only six seniors to graduation, time will tell how returning players handle the new conditions. The Bulldog roster is heavy on seniors compared to last year, with 10 upperclassmen, including returners Joe Campagna, Daniel Cruz, Corey Scranton, Chris Sanderson, Chris Maneotis, Donnie Quick, and Blake Juergens.

Also joining the squad this year are seniors Brian Gonzales and Chris Cox, plus transfer student Caleb Frink, who moved to Craig from Parachute. Besides the abundance of senior talent, coach Scranton noted that the roster this season is more robust altogether with 54 players, with fierce competitors at all grade levels.

“It’s a lot of new faces, so that’s exciting,” Scranton said.

Besides the varsity lineup, coaches are also organizing C-Team games to provide more preparation for younger athletes.

The season ahead is one that will both be fun and full of unknowns, he added, with virtually all teams in the dark about what to expect in their first week.

“It’s gonna be exciting for both sides,” Scranton said.

Cinderella stories: Moffat County cross country sees plentiful surprises, season bests at Whistle Pig Invite

Take your pick which Bill Murray classic you were most reminded of Friday afternoon at Yampa Valley Golf Course.

The endurance running of “Meatballs,” the links setting of “Caddyshack,” or the alias of “Groundhog Day” critter Punxsutawney Phil.

And, as the star of those movies might say, there were some real Cinderella stories in the works. 

Seniors Alayna Behrman, Kelsey McDiffett, Tiana Nichols, Keaton Knez and Andrew Kleckler clutch the awards scepter following their final home meet running for Moffat County High School cross country.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Daily Press

The inaugural Whistle Pig Invitational paid off for MCHS runners, who saw some of their fastest racing times of the season, not to mention an outright victory for the hosting boys team.

The Bulldog group win was not without some surprises within the lineup, with Hayden’s Kale Johnson getting the quickest time, gaining a few steps in front of usual leader Keaton Knez.

Knez a Hayden senior, was a little shocked as his teammate overtook him but not unhappy.

“I’m glad to see he’s going to be taking the reins,” Knez said of Johnson, a junior from Hayden.

Hayden runners Keaton Knez, left, and Kale Johnson stay in step as they start the second mile of the Whistle Pig Invite for Moffat County High School cross country.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Daily Press

The two were hot on the heels of three Basalt runners — Noah Allen, Ross Barlow, Talon Carballeira — and Johnson clocked in fourth at 18:15 and Knez fifth, 18:16. The finish marks Johnson’s best of this fall by nearly a full minute, while Knez’s early season result of 18:07 at Matchett Park remains the guys’ benchmark.

The Dogs couldn’t help but earn first place considering they made up half the top 10; Carter Behrman was next in seventh at a personal record of 18:47, Owen Gifford ninth also PR’ing at 18:54 and Logan Hafey 10th at 19:05, his best of the season.

Ian Trevenen brought his season lowest down to 19:33 for 14th, Hayden’s Andrew Kleckler PR’d at 20:37 in 18th to complete the first wave.

In the second group of runners, Kadin Hume took 20 seconds off his personal best for 21:24 and 26th place.

Hume, a MoCo junior, said the cool autumn weather was great compared to scorching days in late August.

“I like it because it’s not hilly, and it’s not 90 degrees like it was at Connected Lakes,” he laughed.

He added that the start of the course’s second mile was idyllic, striding alongside the Yampa River.

“That was nice running next to that. You could see it perfectly through the trees and hear the water,” he said.

The remainder of the Bulldogs boys also saw solid times as Chase Serio took 36th, new runner Carson Laehr 39th and Javier Fabregas Carbonell 40th at more than 100 seconds faster than a week earlier at the MCHS Invite.

Before the races began, MCHS head coach Todd Trapp honored five team seniors, including Knez and Kleckler for the boys and senior girls Kelsey McDiffett, Alayna Behrman, and Tiana Nichols. While teammates have had varying experience levels, McDiffett and Knez have run Bulldog cross country all four years of high school.

Even before the senior ceremony, a golf ball drop fundraiser opened the afternoon with members of Craig Fire/Rescue pouring hundreds of balls from a towering hydraulic lift, with the hole-in-one winner John Turner, claiming a $1,000 prize. Another $4,500 will go toward the MCHS girls basketball program.

MoCo girls had hopes of winning top team honors in both races, though a particularly tough opponent shut out Lady Bulldogs from the group win.

Basalt took first overall with a tight 25 points, led by Sierra Bower, Katelyn Maley and Ava Lane.

Kelsey McDiffett gutted it out in the final stretch for fifth place and a season low of 20:52, while Emma Jones hustled closely behind in sixth for her own season best of 21:16 with Halle Hamilton eighth at 21:29.

Jones admitted she was a little surprised to finish before Hamilton.

“We were together the whole way,” Jones said. “She’s really fun to run with and pushes me.”

She added that an early pack formation in a race helps them all optimize their performance.

With her best high school time to date at 22:18, Bree Meats finished within the top 10 in ninth place, and the Bulldog score came to 45 with Alayna Behrman 17th at 23:29, her fastest so far this fall, while a PR came for Tiana Nichols with 19th place at 24:05, and Joslyn Bacon completed the Dogs’ first wave at 25:35 in 24th.

Moffat County High School’s Brook Wheeler stays steady early in the Whistle Pig Invite.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Daily Press

A PR of 26:09 went to Megan Neton in 27th, while Brook Wheeler was back in the mix placing 29th.

After missing the first home meet due to the national 4-H archery competition in South Dakota — during which she was still training for distance running — Wheeler said her time of 26:34 was a little disappointing.

“It wasn’t my best, and my hips have been kind of hurting,” she said. “The support of the team is great. I was on the back stretch and kind of feeling down, and then I heard all the boys cheering, so that really picked me up.”

Finishing strong at the end, nearly side by side at 38th and 39th, were Evi Dietrich and Yara Jiminez-Arellano Alonsa, each cutting more than two minutes off their PRs.

Trapp noted during post-race awards that despite an all-around weird year full of “question marks,” he’s seen nothing but great effort from Bulldog runners. Runners agreed that apart from a few odd spots, the flatness of YVGC was a welcome change from hilly courses they’ve seen this year.

A similar setting will also be the site of their next contest, the 3A Region 1 Meet, hosted Friday, Oct. 9 by Bayfield at Durango’s Hillcrest Golf Club.

Besides the lengthy drive in store, Trapp is expecting some tension at regionals compared to previous years.

Due to COVID, CHSAA organizers have trimmed the number of potential qualifiers for the state championships, with the top three teams for each region moving on to the next stage rather than four. Likewise, only the top two individuals unattached to a qualifying team will also go to state.

And, with a plethora of speedy teams in the mix, Trapp is emphasizing to runners that it will be one of the more cutthroat events they’ve seen.

“It’s going to be very competitive,” he said. “Basalt’s ranked second in the state, Aspen’s fifth, Alamosa got added to our region, so we’re going to have to bring it on guys’ and girls’ sides and be ready to compete. It’s gonna be tough. We’ll have a lot of fine-tuning.”

He added that the fast course format of the Whistle Pig was exactly what he wanted to get athletes ready mentally.

“I know they’re excited to get rolling and get ready, so we’ll be getting some recovery after this but also keep pushing,” he said.

‘We feel really good about our chances’: Pair of seniors happy to have Moffat County football back this fall, eye a state playoff run

The clacking of pads and the sharp shrill of coaches whistles filled the air earlier this week on the Bulldog Proving Grounds as Moffat County football gears up for the start of an abbreviated regular season.

For seniors Joe Campagna and Corey Scranton, a chance to not only play football this fall after all that transpired, as well as a great shot at making the playoffs and competing for a possible state championship has returned a sense of excitement and anticipation to the buildup to the start of the abbreviated regular season Oct. 9 at Manitou Springs.

Prior to the news in mid-September that football would return this fall, Scranton and Campagna went out for the boys golf team at Moffat County High School, giving them something to compete in while waiting for football in the spring.

Once the news broke that Moffat County would play football this fall, the two seniors rejoiced.

“It was very different playing golf in the fall compared to football, honestly,” Scranton said. “But once we found out we were going to opt to play football in the fall we were just excited to get back to doing what we love. We were also happy we wouldn’t have to play football in the snow.”

With football in the fall, Moffat County finds itself in the 2A West League with Middle Park, Woodland Park, Elizabeth, Delta, and Englewood. Delta was the only other 2A Western Slope League team to opt to play football this fall with the Bulldogs, which forced the Bulldogs and Panthers to be realigned in a new league for the fall season.

The schedule lines up nicely for Moffat County. Travel will be tough at times, but that’s nothing new for the Bulldogs, who have had to travel all over the state in recent years for league matchups and state playoff games.

“It’s a very high level of excitement around this group,” Campagna said. “With the new teams, it will be very interesting. We’ve played in a really tough league in the past with teams like Rifle, Basalt and Aspen, but we’re more experienced now and excited for the start of the season against some new teams. We feel really good about our chances of having a successful season.”

“I think even without a change in the league this year, we would have had a lot of success this year because we’re much more skilled and have that experience as a group,” Scranton said. “…we’re just thankful to be able to play football this fall and be back together as a team.”

After Moffat County Invite, Bulldog XC set for 2nd home event; rodeo wraps up for fall; golfer Dave Andujo eyeing success at state tourney

In some ways, the fall season is just winding down for Moffat County High School athletes, but in a greater sense, things are just getting started.

Running on home turf

The grounds of Loudy-Simpson Park may be increasingly familiar for MCHS cross country, yet the weekend races held new experiences nonetheless.

MCHS varsity teams were runners-up in the team results during Saturday morning’s home meet, the MoCo Invitational.

Lady Bulldogs faced harsh competition from Aspen in particular, with the Skiers sweeping the top three individual spots for the group victory.

Still, Bulldog Kelsey McDiffett was less than one minute behind Aspen leader Kylie Kenny, and the MCHS senior claimed fourth place overall with a time of 21:20.92, her fastest time so far this season.

Throughout the fall, McDiffett has been keeping it close with teammate Halle Hamilton, who’s earned the top spot in each race during the fall. However, McDiffett broke away midway through the home event.

“I think that may have been my best meet,” she said.

Hamilton — whose performance at the Connected Lakes Championships remains the mark to beat — was no slouch, ending the race several seconds later at 21:28.95 for sixth place.

Emma Jones was next in ninth place with a season best of 21:55.01, while Bree Meats also had her quickest results of the fall at 23:25.35 and 16th.

Alayna Behrman was close behind in 18th (24:12.26) and Tiana Nichols trimmed a few fractions of a second off her personal best for 24:59.34 to end it 27th.

Nichols noted that she felt especially prepared for the event.

“I think the speed workouts throughout the week we do here helped a lot to have that mentality,” she said.

While the girls varsity race was utterly owned by Aspen, runners took particular pride in denying rival Steamboat Springs the silver honors, with the Sailors one point behind the Bulldogs’ 53.

Coach Todd Trapp commended athletes for the strategy that came down to the final stretch.

“The thing right there is the finish. We have to continue to do that. If someone is near us, we have to pass them. Let’s keep that up, keep finishing hard,” Trapp told runners at the meet conclusion. “Continue that solid last mile.”

Steamboat won the boys race as a team and individually, led by Jaydon Fryer and Bowden Tumminello, with Hayden’s Keaton Knez right behind for the bronze for MoCo.

The Sailor point total of 43 outdid the Bulldog 47, but the Moffat County split among their top five was better at 1:34 compared to Steamboat’s 2:38.

Knez’s 18:27.6 was a ways behind the 18:07 he picked up in the season’s first race, though he was more than satisfied with his performance on a course known for its incline on the Loudy-Simpson hill that adds time to most running results.

Case in point, he eclipsed the previous best time of 18:38 from last season’s home meet.

He likened the final time crossing the finish line in the middle of Loudy-Simpson to “parting with an old friend.”

“It was a blast for sure, and it’s always good to run with these guys,” Knez said. “We needed a good race today. We crushed some rivals that we needed to beat, so that’s a good way to getting to that state race.”

Fellow Hayden runner Kale Johnson had his best output of the fall, bringing his time to 19:09.76, placing seventh.

Rounding out the top 10 was Logan Hafey, who likewise brought his time down for the year, clocking in at 19:30.14. After dropping cross country in 2019 to play football, the MCHS junior will be able to do both with the Bulldog gridiron program suddenly back in session.

“I thought I wouldn’t miss (cross country), but I’m definitely glad I got to do it again,” Hafey said. “I’m still working out part-time with the team and doing my own runs, my dad’s riding his bike with me so I can get all the workouts in and take advantage of the extra work so I can get that blast in on the weekends.”

Finishing up the boys varsity race were Carter Behrman in 14th, Boden Reidhead 17th and Owen Gifford 18th.

Friday saw a smaller turnout at the meet’s junior varsity races, with Moffat County fielding four runners in each to not make the team minimum of five.

Ian Trevenen led the JV boys with fourth place and a season best of 20:24.33, with Kadin Hume taking 20th, Chase Serio 21st and Javier Fabregas Carbonell 27th.

“That hill is super steep, so if you go strong uphill, the rest going down will take care of itself,” Trevenen said.

He added that compared to the August start, he’s felt more capable physically lately.

“I feel better, like, more in shape,” he said.

In front for girls JV was Mary Willems in 11th place at 26:04.2, with Joslyn Bacon 12th, Megan Neton 25th and Evi Dietrich 29th.

The Friday afternoon race held a bit of a surprise for girls in particular with the park sprinkler system going strong along the soccer field in the final mile.

“It was really cold,” Willems laughed, adding that the stream of water was still refreshing amid a grueling run.

She added that while the hill presented an expected challenge, the course — changed slightly due to park construction — also was a shift from the rest of the year.

“I feel like it was hard because the whole thing was close together and had a lot of loops, so it was hard mentally,” Willems said.

With one more week before the Oct. 9 regional races in Durango, MCHS has one big run left, which they’ll be doing again at home with the inaugural Whistle Pig Invite Friday, Oct. 2 at Yampa Valley Golf Course.

Preceded by a golf ball drop fundraiser for MCHS girls basketball at 4:45 p.m., the races kick off at 5:30 p.m. as both varsity and JV harriers will run in a single day.

Expectations are high for lower times among runners on a fast, flat course as YVGC’s layout ensures a speedy result.


Moffat County High School cross country results at MCHS Invite

Varsity

Girls

Runner Time; Place

  • Kelsey McDiffett 21:20.92; 4
  • Halle Hamilton 21:28.95; 6
  • Emma Jones 21:55.01; 9
  • Bree Meats 23:25.35; 16
  • Alayna Behrman 24:12.26; 18
  • Tiana Nichols 24:59.34; 27

Boys

  • Keaton Knez 18:27.6; 3
  • Kale Johnson 19:09.76; 7
  • Logan Hafey 19:30.14; 10
  • Carter Behrman 19:55.01; 14
  • Boden Reidhead 20:01.38; 17
  • Owen Gifford 20:03.38; 18

JV

Girls

  • Mary Willems 26:04.2; 11
  • Joslyn Bacon 26:17.58; 12
  • Megan Neton 20:01.39; 25
  • Evi Dietrich 31:12.56; 29

Boys

  • Ian Trevenen 20:24.33; 4
  • Kadin Hume 23:04.41; 20
  • Chase Serio 23:28.15; 21
  • Javier Fabregas Carbonell 24:42.4; 27

Riding into the sunset

The final weekend of the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association’s early season saw Moffat County competitors give their all as they approach a lengthy hiatus that will see them prepping for the spring return.

Elbert’s Latigo Trails was the site of the big fall finale for CSHSRA, with both days providing plentiful points for Moffat County kids.

Craig’s Pepper Rhyne had arguably his best run of the fall in the tie down roping, placing third on Day 1 — with a time of 14.72 seconds — and fourth on Day 2 (15.46) to rise to sixth overall in the state in the event.

However, his best placement came in the second day of team roping, pairing with Delta’s Conner Cannon to place No. 2.

The first day of the rifle shoot saw Joey Gates on target with second place and Kaden Cox in fifth. Gates repeated the strong showing the next day — trailing the lead by only eight points — with another second place, while Cox took sixth.

Cox will end the fall ranked third in the state, while Gates’ best weekend so far jumped her up to the top 10 in the rifle.

Just missing a score in the goat tying with 11th place on the opening day at Latigo, Katie Jo Knez had a trying weekend, as did Clay Durham in the bull riding, yet both remain formidable in the rankings, each placed fifth in the state to end the fall.

In junior high results, Jolene Rhyne was on fire for the first day of competition, winning the girls breakaway roping, girls goats and pole bending in addition to sixth place in barrel racing.

Cactus Barnes wasn’t far behind the same day, winning the ribbon roping with Peyton’s Jaycee Yonkers as well as gaining a win in the chute dogging, plus second place in the tie down.

Barnes also earned sixth in boys goats, Chance Knez a few seconds behind in ninth.

Despite no time on the first day, Logan Durham was back to his old self the next day in bull riding with a 60-point run in his final go of the fall, still leagues ahead of everyone in the state rankings.

While not dominating quite as much Sunday, Rhyne was still in good form with another victory in poles and a shared win in ribbon roping with Elbert’s Nathan Lammers, as well as second place in goats and ninth in barrels.

For Day 2, Knez rose to sixth in goats with Barnes in eighth, and Barnes also earned second in both chute dogging and tie down as well as fourth in ribbon.

While Yuma’s Cassidy Evans is almost uncatchable in the junior high girls all-around with 363 points for the fall alone, Rhyne is closer than anyone, currently sat in second with 228 after a big weekend. Barnes is also on the rise in the boys all-around in third.

With the top four at the end of the spring determining who will move on to the national level, Rhyne is now ranked second in the state in both barrels and poles and fourth in goats.

Knez is tied for second in the boys breakaway, and Barnes is in a big field of kids fighting for fourth in team roping.

Barnes is also ranked third in tie down and chute dogging.

However, the battle will be on among Moffat County athletes this spring in the ribbon roping, with the past weekend putting Rhyne and Lammers at the top of the board with 61 points. Ranked second are Barnes and Yonkers with only one point making up the difference.

The season will last a little longer for the Craig rodeo crew that’s been heading up north, and Donnie Quick and Amber Salazar are looking to build on recent successes.

Quick earned top 10 honors in both days of the weekend’s team roping at Wheatland, Wyoming but his better results were in the steer wrestling, earning fourth place on the first day and placing second on the latter day to maintain his status as the current runner-up only two points from the lead.

Salazar likewise had her best run yet in the pole bending, placing third to bolt up the leaderboard, now tied for 12th.

Wyoming High School Rodeo Association will wrap the fall season this coming weekend in Rock Springs.

A second shot at state

The 2019 season for MCHS’s Dave Andujo was one capped off by attaining the same goal held by hundreds of other young golfers: qualification for the state tournament.

A year later, he’s in the same situation and ready to ascend to another level.

Andujo, a Bulldog junior, will attend the 3A CHSAA State Championships in the following week at Gunnison’s Dos Rios Golf Club.

The tourney tees off officially Monday morning with a second round Tuesday.

All golfers will have a practice round Sunday, and early birds may have the opportunity to get a little more time on the course.

“We may be able to get a few holes in at the end of the day Saturday,” said coach Tim Adams. “Last year the boys got two practice rounds at state, but the sticky thing is Dos Rios has another tournament on Saturday, so there’s really not a lot of tee times. We’ll see what we can get.”

Andujo made the cut for state during the 3A Region 4 event at Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch, notching an 80 and placing eighth overall.

Teammate Tanner Etzler, who also went to state last fall, narrowly missed the big event with an 88, two strokes away from a playoff round among those on the cusp.

“I was really hoping Tanner would make it too, and he was disappointed, but he still felt like he played the best he could,” Adams said. “That’s all any of us can hope for.”

Andujo said he was hoping to have a fellow MoCo player at state, though he’s not at all worried about going it alone on the links.

“I’ve just been trying to get my mind right,” he said. “I really don’t get that nervous about tournaments because I have a lot of experience now.”

With nearly two weeks of practice time, Adams and Andujo have been on the grounds of Yampa Valley Golf Course regularly to tighten his game, during which the young athlete has been taking note of his strengths and weaknesses.

“Tempo and my first and second shots are the biggest things for me,” Andujo said. “I’m trying to be more consistent on the drive, not having it go 100 miles an hour, just have a smooth swing.”

Unlike last year’s 3A state meet, hosted at the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Club, Andujo has plenty of familiarity with the layout of Dos Rios on the Western Slope.

“It plays like our course. It’s not too hard, it’s pretty open and fairways are big,” he said.

He added that he hopes to be on the same wavelength as regionals that saw him succeed. The previous year’s state performance is one he hopes to put out of mind entirely, shooting a 96 the first day and 101 the next.

“I really want to keep it below 82 or 83 for both days,” he said. “I’m just trying to do better than last year, because I didn’t do that well.”

With the first time at state already under both their belts, Adams said he and Andujo are far more prepared for the event.

“He seems to handle the pressure a little bit better this year, so it should be fun to watch him play,” Adams said. “Plenty of chances to get ourselves ready. I’m excited for him and his parents getting to come down and watch him.”