Bulldog Beat: Winter teams salute Moffat County seniors as seasons head into final weeks
For the Craig Press
The oldest members of Moffat County High School winter sports squads have been in the spotlight a lot lately as the Bulldogs seek some big results in the coming weeks.
Double dose of domination
With back-to-back basketball events going strong in the MCHS gym, the Bulldog spirit was high for all ages as MoCo varsity hoopsters swept North Fork and Gunnison on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively, in a bustling weekend.
In their return home, the Bulldogs hoped to maintain the energy they built up with Feb. 1 road wins against Grand Valley — 50-39 for girls and 55-51 for boys. The W against the Cardinals was especially momentous for the girls, given Grand Valley girls’ continued presence in CHSAA’s top 10 list of 3A teams.
The basketball court served as a showcase Friday evening for Sunset Elementary School singers performing the national anthem, Ridgeview Elementary students displaying a sports-based choreography, and finally the Mini Cheer Camp hosted by the MCHS spirit team.
Amid the entertainment, Bulldog basketball players still took their share of the spotlight, as the girls group pushed past North Fork 41-35.
Despite a fierce half-court defense, it was a slow start on offense against the Miners — the newest member of the 3A Western Slope League — but as the first quarter concluded with a buzzer-beating triple by Emma Jones, the Lady Dogs started finding their shooting skills again.
A 25-23 Miner lead at halftime was of little concern for MoCo girls, as a triple by Emma Tucker kicked off a seven-point run with MCHS staying in front the full second half.
Rylie Felten accumulated 13 points, with Lizzy LeWarne big on the boards with 14 rebounds.
Once the Bulldog boys took the floor, they left no doubt who was running things with a 24-10 opening period.
Myles Simpson put up 10 points in the first quarter alone, proving deadly from long range with four outside buckets in the game as part of 22 points, his best individual scoring effort since early December.
“That was probably the largest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, so I wanted to put on a show and let them know that we’re not playing around here,” Simpson said.
In other elements of the game, Ryan Peck, Cort Murphy and Jordan Carlson each compiled 10 rebounds as part of the 63-50 win.
The following day was no less in favor of the home teams, namely the 10 upperclassmen being honored for Senior Night: Jacie Evenson, Felten, Halle Hamilton, Jones, Reese Weber, Carlson, Nick Crookston, Logan Hafey, Peck, and Simpson.
The ceremony replete with family members, photos, and gift baskets led into hectic games against Gunnison, who, in the case of the girls, proved far more formidable than in previous years with dual three-pointers right out of the gate.
“We were kind of surprised by Gunnison being able to shoot threes like that,” Weber said. “Once we got in a rhythm, we started doing a lot better.”
The Dogs regained composure quickly, leading 14-9 after the first eight minutes and staying ahead the rest of the day, with a 46-38 finale.
Felten proved a fearsome defender with five blocks in addition to leading with 16 points in a season in which she’s regularly put up double digits each time.
“Finding the openings in the key and dribbling more has been really beneficial for me this year,” she said.
Felten added that the senior sendoff was somewhat bittersweet.
“It was very hard to give everybody hugs knowing this is a team that I’ll be leaving soon. But I know they’re going to be solid next year,” she said.
Bulldog boys stayed steady in another outing where they never once trailed as Peck started the game right with a top-of-the-key shot, the first of a trio of triples he’d hit in a 15-point game as MoCo claimed their 10th win of the season, finishing it 51-41.
Hafey was right behind with 12 points, while Simpson earned seven rebounds and Crookston six.
Head coach Mark Carlson noted that although Senior Night proved a bit more emotional than he’d hoped, his eldest players led by example.
“I’ve coached those seniors since they were in third, fourth grade and have really strong relationships with them,” the coach said.
A win over the Cowboys was particularly crucial for the crew.
“They had a pretty bad taste in their mouths last year when we went to Gunnison, Ryan spent the day in the hospital, and it was a pretty bad game,” coach Carlson said. “I told them before the game, ‘I want this for you guys. You gotta play with the energy and the effort to go win it.’ Extremely proud of these guys.”
Simpson stated that he and his teammates were eager to make each other proud.
“Having everyone I’ve played with since eighth grade and all my family and friends in the stands here, that’s just really special to me,” he said.
MCHS boys will have one final home game of the regular season, hosting 3A juggernaut Aspen on Feb. 12, though Skier girls will only be competing at the JV level.
“We’ve watched a lot of game film, we match up with them well size-wise, so it should be a good game,” coach Carlson said.
Bulldog teams will wrap up the schedule Feb. 15 in Basalt before league standings determine brackets for the district tournament. Comfortably in the top half of the WSL, each Moffat County team is likely to host at least one postseason game before moving on to bigger things.
“I think we’re progressing strongly, and these last games will be a pretty big confidence booster going into districts,” Halle Hamilton said. “I hope we get another match with Delta. I really want to beat them, that’s all I want.”
With their final opportunity to move on to the 3A state championships, the MCHS girls swim team gave their all during the weekend’s Southwest Conference Championships at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
Though they came up just short of qualification, Bulldog athletes recorded their best results of the year in each relay event, including the 200-yard freestyle relay that was within three seconds of state-level as Vivian Brown, Wagner Brown, Sarah Johnson, and Megan Neton clocked in at 1:59.01 in Saturday’s finals.
Working as a group has been key, Neton said, as well as maintaining solo standards.
“In relays we encourage each other, cheer each other on, and try to get hyped, but at the end of the day we all know what we need to do to cut time,” she said.
MoCo girls made the cut for the finals in all relays, with the Browns, Johnson and Neton seeing their fastest race yet in the 400 free preliminaries at 4:32.48. Wagner Brown led off the 200 medley that included Kate Lockwood, Morgan Schacht and Jayden Hill at a season best of 2:17.57.
With swimmers getting shuffled around to find the best fit, fluidity has been important.
“I feel like our team has definitely changed a lot this season and there have been adjustments, but it’s all just about getting into the groove of a new dynamic,” Neton said.
In single races, the MCHS roster set at least one personal best in nearly every event during the conference championships: 50 free (Mary Willems, Maddy Caddy, Judit Valverde); 100 free (Wagner Brown, Johnson, Lockwood, Hill, Willems); 100 backstroke (Vivian Brown, Schacht, Hill); 100 breaststroke (Lockwood, Natalia Lopez, Valverde, Caddy); 200 free (Neton); and 200 individual medley (Schacht).
Coach Melany Neton said apart from strong results, the vibe of the meet was more fun and relaxed, and while they won’t be heading to state, nearly all of the athletes — apart from Meeker senior Schacht — will return.
“The rookies keep improving at each meet,” Neton said. “They are an easy group to coach because they are such great listeners and just have a huge drive to get better times.”
Shooting for greatness
The final weeks of the Bulldog wrestling season are upon us, with the two-day 3A Region 1 Tournament underway this weekend in Gunnison for boys and the Region 1 Tournament in Grand Junction for girls.
The Dogs are primed for the respective meets that will potentially serve as the gateway to the state championships in Denver.
Saturday saw the MoCo varsity grapplers at the Rumble in Rawlins, the lone Colorado team among Wyoming schools, placing second overall.
MCHS took three consecutive team wins in their initial pool — 57-24 over Lander Valley, 63-0 over Torrington, 59-10 over Buffalo — before a narrow loss of 40-36 to Douglas in the gold finals.
With a flurry of pins among them, the Bulldogs had multiple athletes go undefeated at the Rumble, including Colt Call (113 pounds), Kaden Hixson (120), Anthony Duran (126), Caden Call (138), Michael Voloshin (160), and Pepper Rhyne (170). Going 3-1 for the day were Eli Fredrickson (132), Ryan Duzik (152), Billy Lawton (182), and Blake Hill (195), while Hunter Fredrickson battled his way to an 8-2 decision over Torrington for a 1-3 run in the 145 class.
The same day saw their younger teammates take the team title in the Western Slope JV Championships, with everyone taking a medal in the effort.
Winning the 120-pound class was Noah Duran, while Kaeden Martinez claimed the 138 class, both taking no losses, with four pins apiece, as well as a 20-5 technical fall for Duran.
Tate Green fell to his teammate in the 120 division but finished second, as did Osbaldo Quintana (126), Keegan Herod (138), and Cyrus Goldsmith (170).
Taking bronze were Blake Tupa (106) and Cris Calderon (113), with Kolbee West fourth in 145.
In a season that’s been spent primarily on the road, MCHS had one final home event Feb. 3 in a dual against Glenwood Springs, defeating the Demons 66-9.
The evening served as Senior Night for the program, honoring manager JasLun Langlois as well as athletes Anthony Duran, Caden Call, Hunter Fredrickson, Duzik, Rhyne, Kalub West, Trace Frederickson, and Alex Musgrave.
Every Bulldog win came via pin, some in a matter of seconds. Hixson had the quickest fall of the dual, 15 seconds.
“Just go out there and just pin, keep attacking,” he said of his strategy. “If that doesn’t work, I try to switch up my gameplan, but I always want to take them to the mat.”
Glenwood’s smaller roster meant limited competition, with not every senior getting a matchup.
“Unfortunately, the state of wrestling for some schools on the Western Slope, you don’t see full teams sometimes. It is what it is, so you’ve gotta make the best of it, said MCHS head coach Tyler Seislove.
Still, some extra bouts were available as exhibitions, including a pin for Frederickson, who’s been vying to be in the varsity lineup in a crowded 152 weight class.
“It was a fun victory, and it’s been a very fun senior year,” he said. “With Duzik being out with his shoulder, I’ve been able to get a lot more matches, which is great because last year I only had two matches.”
Seislove noted that competition among teammates has kept wrestlers on their toes to see who will go to the mat.
“It’s all earned with our wrestle-offs to see who will be representing varsity,” he said. “I’m looking forward to these guys competing at a really high level and showing off what they got.”
With regionals ahead, Seislove expects his team to be up against contenders from Alamosa, Pagosa Springs, and Gunnison, to name a few. As a group, Moffat County has been ranked among the top 10 3A teams all season, though Bulldog wrestlers have been in and out of the individual standings.
However, Seislove doesn’t see that as a liability.
“Some of our guys are ranked lower than I think they should be but coming in as underdogs can be kind of nice,” he said. “Coming in at No. 1 or 2, you have a target on your back, but being lower, you can go out on the attack and show you have something to prove.”
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