Battle of the Bulldogs: Moffat County football to host University to start playoffs
For the Craig Press
A banner year for Moffat County High School football is just getting started.
The 2A postseason brackets were released Sunday afternoon, with MCHS ranked fifth among a field of 16 teams that are all eager to achieve a state title.
Battle of the Bulldogs
Half of the 2A West League will be moving on to playoff rounds, with the conference champion Delta seeded fourth and scheduled to host No. 13 Alamosa. Basalt earned the 10th slot and will travel to Brush, the Beetdiggers ranked seventh.
Moffat County will stay in Craig at least for their first game, which will be a mirror match as they face off against the No. 12 University Bulldogs of Greeley.
University finished the fall 5-4 overall with a 3-1 conclusion to their non-conference schedule, the only loss a 38-30 overtime defeat to Eagle Valley.
At 2-3 and fourth place in the 2A Patriot West League, University stayed high in the rankings thanks to staunch competition from Eaton, Resurrection Christian, and Severance, all of which will be hosting first round games, ranked first, second, and sixth, respectively, in the playoffs.
University also gave the undefeated Eaton Reds one of their closest games this season, a 27-20 final that saw the Bulldogs leading before Eaton picked up 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Given the way the brackets are drawn up, it may be the Reds whom Moffat County must defeat in order to advance to the state finals, but that’s not the focus at this point for players or coaches.
After their 51-0 win over Coal Ridge Friday night, MCHS finished the regular season ranked sixth, just behind Delta, in fifth, in the RPI standings that largely determine the postseason.
It’s likely that CHSAA shifted seeds around to accommodate travel in the quarterfinals and semifinal rounds, and should all higher seeds win their first game, MoCo players could have a rematch against the Delta Panthers the following week.
“It’s playoffs, so you gotta be ready for everything and anything,” said head coach Lance Scranton. “Every team has an opportunity and we have to make the most of ours.”
Moffat County’s 8-1 record is their best to date since entering the 2A division in 2014, as well as their best season since 2004, in which the Dogs’ only defeat was a 36-35 squeaker against Palisade as the conference championship eluded them.
That year MoCo had home field advantage to open the 3A playoffs, beating Pueblo County before being shut down by Niwot.
Since being in 2A, the Dogs obtained league titles and playoff berths in 2014 and 2015 — the latter being their most recent occasion playing a postseason outing in Craig — as well as playing one-and-done road games for the playoffs in 2019 and 2020.
In spite of winning the 2A West championship last season, Moffat County was forced to travel thanks to a condensed playoff field of only eight teams, matched with top seed Resurrection Christian.
While the roster was lessened considerably during the Resurrection game due to COVID-19, MoCo players are looking healthy and hearty this time around.
The victory over Coal Ridge saw junior Evan Atkin score five touchdowns and rush for 139 yards to finish the regular season with 31 TDs, by far the most of any player in the 2A West and, according to MaxPreps, the most of any player in the entire state.
Atkin amassed 1,256 yards across nine games, again best in the league and ranked second in 2A.
Senior quarterback Ryan Peck ended the regular season ranked second in the league in passing yardage with 996, which included 12 TDs. The Coal Ridge game saw him throw for 163, including two TDs.
Peck is among the top 10 passers in the 2A division, and though University’s Greg Garza leads 2A with 1,855 yards, the two QBs are equal in interceptions thrown at six apiece.
University has two of the top five receivers in 2A with Tayt Chacon and Kanon Padilla boasting 588 and 560 yards, while MoCo senior Ethan Hafey leads the MCHS statistics at 250.
On defense, Hafey also ended the league schedule as the 2A West’s most proficient hitter in the backfield with 7.5 sacks. Brothers Ian and Logan, as well as Taran Teeter have all been productive as well, with 3.5 sacks for Ian and three each for Logan and Teeter.
Ethan also led the team in total tackles at 54, with Atkin close behind at 51 and Ian 43.
Of the Dogs’ 12 interceptions, five of those have been courtesy of Cort Murphy, who boasts the most picks in the league. He’s tied with University’s Padilla in takeaways.
MCHS players are feeling confident heading into the match-up, and the 10 upperclassmen who were honored before the Coal Ridge game — Trace Frederickson, Ethan Hafey, Logan Hafey, Kyle Hoag, Carson Miller, Alex Musgrave, Ryan Peck, Myles Simpson, Taran Teeter, Joey Winters — are particularly ready for anything at home and on the road.
“We have a lot of good momentum going forward, we’re working well together, and I think it’ll be a good game next week,” Winters said Friday night.
The playoff game will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Moffat County Bulldog Proving Grounds, 900 Finley Lane. Spectators are reminded that postseason events will feature higher ticket prices, per CHSAA rules.
MCHS coaches and athletes are anticipating a big turnout for the event.
“We’re looking forward to hosting a playoff game, and we appreciate all the support from the community,” Scranton said.
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