34-14 defeat by Aspen alters Moffat County football playoff projections | CraigDailyPress.com

34-14 defeat by Aspen alters Moffat County football playoff projections

Moffat County High School senior Keith Smith (75) and sophomore Keenan Hildebrandt (12) block for quarterback Matt Hamilton (1) during the Bulldogs' Friday game in Aspen. The team lost, 34-14, against the Skiers, with the two now tied with Coal Ridge for second place in the 2A Western Slope North League.

Moffat County High School varsity football is still in the running to reach the postseason, but the race now is much closer than it was a week ago after a 34-14 loss Friday in Aspen.

The first quarter was a whirlwind for the Bulldogs, as Aspen moved forward quickly on the opening drive, completing its first touchdown less than four minutes into the game. MCHS was unable to make much of its first opportunity with the ball, as the Skiers' Ryan Fitzgerald was able to put another TD on the scoreboard shortly after a Bulldogs punt, and a two-point conversion left it 15-0 with three minutes left in the quarter.

Aspen kicked a 37-yard field goal to begin the second quarter 18-0, the final points the Bulldogs would allow in the half.

A 77-yard drive, started by Joe Camilletti fielding the kick return, was pushed along by runs by quarterback Matt Hamilton to get to Aspen's 25-yard line. Brett Loyd took it from there, maneuvering his way through the Skier defense to get Moffat County's first TD.

The half ended 18-7, with the team hopeful about coming out of the locker room and making a comeback.

The defensive effort was increased on both sides of the ball to start the third quarter, and while MCHS couldn't get much progress, it refused to let the Skiers take another touchdown, holding them to a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-7.

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Disaster struck when Hamilton fumbled at the 25 on the following drive, and Aspen had enough time to pick up the pigskin, dust it off and make it back across the goal line. A blocked extra point led to a 27-7 score.

It was at this point that coach Keith Gille said many of his players had their confidence irrevocably shattered.

"That fumble really hurt us," he said. "They (Aspen) were playing exactly the way we'd like to be playing against others. They had everything working for them."

Even so, given the ball again, Moffat County made the most of their possession with a tricky bit of running by Shandon Hadley, as he went past the first-down marker along the sidelines and just kept going, finding a second Bulldog TD on the 53-yard rush, keeping it 27-14 with two minutes in the third.

In retaliation, Aspen took no time getting upfield, 7 yards from goal as the fourth quarter began, scoring again three seconds into the last 12 minutes of play.

The Bulldogs tried desperately to make up the difference, and when Kearn Gerber was downed in the end zone on a 43-yard reception from Hamilton, it looked like they were still in it only to have an illegal motion call send it back and eventually force them to punt with precious few minutes left on the clock.

After that, the Skiers only had to keep the seconds ticking down, taking a knee twice to reinforce that strategy.

"I've got to give Aspen's coach credit, he really played it classy," Gille said.

Aspen racked up 277 rushing yards to the Bulldogs’ 185, while Hamilton’s 75 passing yards beat out the 41 accumulated by Aspen’s Tyler Tick. The Skiers also had nearly twice the number of first downs, 23 to Moffat County’s 12.

The game results in a 2-2 record in the 2A Western Slope North League for both teams and puts Aspen back in contention for the playoffs. Had MCHS won, it would have all but solidified its postseason plans, but now everything hinges on next Friday as the Bulldogs meet with Roaring Fork and the Skiers take on their Basalt rivals for the end of the regular season.

Although Aspen retains the advantage going forward, an MCHS victory against the Rams and a Skier loss to the Longhorns will put Moffat County back in the lead and headed for the playoffs. Additionally, wild-card rankings, in which MCHS led the league earlier this week, will be released by Colorado High School Activities Association on Monday.

"I really believe we're going to get this done," Gille said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.