As Colorado’s touchdown leader, Moffat County’s Evan Atkin not slowing down yet
For the Craig Press
It’s been a monster season in many respects for Moffat County High School football, between one-sided scoreboards, a domineering defensive effort and a winning spirit among all the Bulldogs.
And, though MCHS junior Evan Atkin has given as much credit to his teammates as he has to himself, it’s hard to ignore the kind of numbers he’s achieved this fall.
Evan finished the regular season with more touchdowns than any other player in the entire state of Colorado. Besides the most rushing touchdowns of any Colorado athlete, 28, his three receiving scores put him in an elite category as the only kid in the Centennial State with 31 TDs.
Adding in one PAT and a safety this season — the latter he picked up on a blocked punt against Coal Ridge — his 189 points also puts him in the upper echelon of scorers among all size divisions.
He’s added yardage in every possible capacity this fall — 1,256 rushing, 336 receiving, 80 passing, 66 kick return, 12 punt return and 19 interception return yards — exceeding 100 rushing yards in seven of the last nine game, and he isn’t planning to hold back at all as the Bulldogs move into the playoffs.
Trying to contain him has been like trying to stick a tornado in a jar; he’s sought out every possible gap in opposing defenses and fought for every yard possible, scoring from as close as the 1-yard line and as far from the goal line as 84 yards.
Evan said that much of his success has come from his cohorts on the offensive line getting him running room.
“Getting a lot of blocks helps. I just try to burn them and beat them at that point. Coming straight off the line, it’s more about force and then the second level is more about speed,” he said. “Usually once I get to the second level past my blockers, it’s about getting to the outside and trying to beat them in the foot race.”
While he’s had plenty of end zone runs this year going completely unscathed by defenders, Evan has also worked specifically to be able to be a durable running back.
“I always try to change directions. I do a lot of footwork drills. It’s all about taking tackles and being able to get up from hit after hit,” he said.
He noted that he’s been following in the footsteps of Caleb Frink, who was the leading rusher for the Bulldogs in his senior season in 2020.
“I learned a lot from Caleb, training with him, and it was nice to have a leader to follow like that,” Atkin said.
Like Frink, Atkin’s also been capable on offense, defense and special teams, serving as the Bulldog punter and, as a linebacker, trailing only senior Ethan Hafey in total tackles, with 51.
Being a multi-sport athlete has also benefited him greatly, particularly his experience in track and field earlier this year.
“Track for sure gave me more speed and a lot of jumping ability. It comes a lot from the ankles and hips,” he said.
As a sophomore, Evan earned league championships in the high jump and long jump and went on to tie for third in the former and place seventh in the latter at the state finals. The same season, he was also a strong hurdler but was limited to four events at state, with teammate Logan Hafey winning a state title in the 300-meter hurdle race.
Evan, Logan, Ian Hafey and Taran Teeter — all of whom are on the football roster this fall — also took sixth in the 4×200-meter relay.
Also planning to play basketball in the winter, Evan said training for one sport tends to feed into the others.
“I’m always trying to stay in shape that way. Football is good for building strength, then I just try to bring a lot of explosiveness into basketball. Then that running and jumping is just perfect for track,” he said.
Evan’s older brother Jared also was a Bulldog track star and was a promising football player, though he was hindered by multiple injuries, which Evan said taught him how to avoid getting hurt on the gridiron.
The 16-year-old is the fifth of eight siblings: Wesley, 23; Taylor, 21; Jared, 20; Maddy, 18; Avery, 15; Mason, 12; and Morgan, 11.
His brothers and sisters, girlfriend Sadie Smilanich and parents Stacy and Lee have been cheering him on all fall.
“It’s great to get the support from them and show them what I can do. My grandparents especially, they got to watch online,” he said.
Stacy Atkin said it’s been a joy to watch her son compete, and she can see a true love for the game each time he does so. She noted the excitement she’s felt repeatedly when her son has broken free of the defense, zig-zagged in every direction and ultimately celebrated a score with his teammates.
“He loves playing sports, but he is still all about the fun on the field,” she said,
With one highlight being seven straight wins this fall, MoCo football enters the postseason this weekend, and Evan and company are looking to avoid any kind of complacency from past accomplishments.
“Our team, it’s been awesome to go this far and have the long undefeated streak for that long. We’re just trying to get as far as we can as a team,” he said. “A state championship would be awesome, but we’ve gotta work our hardest, game-by-game, see what we can do.”
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