Bulldog beginnings: Moffat County football seeks to make statement in season start | CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldog beginnings: Moffat County football seeks to make statement in season start

From left, Moffat County High School varsity football seniors Bryson Davis, Colby Beaver, Cale Scranton, Logan Knez, Angel Rodriguez, Victor Silva, Connor Etzler, Joahan Quezada, Jared Baker, Josh Teeter and Greg Hixson gather in the Bulldog locker room following a practice session.
Andy Bockelman

Moffat County High School varsity football 2018 schedule

Time, Date — Opponent, Home/Away7 p.m. Aug. 31 — Summit, Home7 p.m. Sept. 7 — Steamboat Springs, Home*7 p.m. Sept. 14 — Battle Mountain, Away1 p.m. Sept. 22 — Pagosa Springs, Away**1 p.m. Sept. 29 — Basalt, Home7 p.m. Oct. 5 — Aspen, Away7 p.m. Oct. 12 — Coal Ridge, Away7 p.m. Oct. 19 — Delta, Home7 p.m. Oct. 26 — Rifle, Home* Originally an away game** Originally a home game, takes place on a neutral field in Olathe

From pristine white headgear atop athletes’ noggins to a new head of the program calling the plays from the sidelines, a new era of Moffat County High School varsity football begins this weekend.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday at MCHS as the 2018 gridiron season commences with the Bulldogs hosting the Summit Tigers of Frisco, the first true test for new coach Jamie Nelson.

Nelson, who took over the team after being hired in April, looks to set a tone of success throughout the fall in his first game as the top dog amid transition both expected and unexpected.

Senior season

The Bulldogs — 4-5 overall, 3-2 in the 2A Western Slope League in 2017 — will see a great deal of change throughout the field this season, namely right up front as multiple graduates of 2018 who served as linemen are replaced by a new crop, anchored by returning blockers Jared Baker, Bryson Davis and Logan Knez.

Knez said linemen are more than ready to get in action after starting official practices in early August and staying in shape in the weight room throughout the summer. The days leading up to the start have been especially intense as the line corps readies for the full contact that comes with the throes of all-out competition.

“As the week goes on, we keep getting edgier and edgier every day,” he said. “You want to hit someone other than your own teammate.”

Colby Beaver returns as the team’s starting quarterback, ranked sixth among 2A’s returning QBs in terms of passing yardage with 944 last season. While numerous members of the 2017 Bulldog backfield have since moved on, Josh Teeter looks to be a difference-maker in the run game, while Cale Scranton seeks to do the same as a receiver, both of whom will also be key in the secondary defense.

Teeter ranked fifth in total tackles at 61 in the league last season — a count led by grads Colby Beckett and Miki Klimper — standing as the Bulldogs’ heaviest hitter returning back to the field. Likewise, Scranton led the Dogs last year in receiving with 333 yards from 27 catches, leading to five touchdowns.

Baker, Knez, Davis, Beaver, Teeter and Scranton are among the 11 total seniors this season, joined by Greg Hixson, Connor Etzler, Victor Silva, Angel Rodriguez and Joahan Quezada as a group that has both seasoned and newer upperclassmen, as well as younger talent eager to find their place.

League lineup

With regional rival Steamboat Springs returning back to 3A classification, the Dogs’ non-conference meeting with the Sailors will have no impact on the league, though what was originally an away game will now take place Sept. 7 at the Bulldog Proving Grounds due to maintenance at Steamboat’s field.

The next week, MCHS hits the road for Edwards to meet former league foes Battle Mountain, but a larger schedule change is in store for Sept. 22.

Initially, Ridge View Academy was set to visit for a Saturday afternoon match-up only for the Rams to cancel. However, Moffat County will still have a game that day as they take on the Pagosa Springs Pirates, who also found a hole in their schedule and risked losing ranking status after Gunnison opted not to field a varsity team.

What could have been a 14-hour round trip for either team resulted in a compromise to meet in the middle on neutral ground as the northwest and southwest teams face off in Olathe.

A Sept. 29 Homecoming match with last year’s WSL champions Basalt — the Longhorns handing the Bulldogs a 47-0 beatdown last fall — to open league play will tell how well MoCo can take on the rest of the competition, namely Delta and Rifle, both new to the conference and Rifle new to 2A entirely.

Baker is especially interested in the buildup to the final weeks of the regular season.

“Rifle will be a good matchup and Delta, both of them are tough, but you play better teams, you become a better team,” he said. “We’re pretty confident we’ve got a good team, we’ve just gotta know we can trust each other. First game, everyone’s a little nervous, but once the ball is snapped we’ve gotta attack the opponent, and if we do that, we’ll be great.”

As a fellow first-year coach in the area, Nelson said he is curious to see how Aspen and Coal Ridge programs come together under new leadership, seeing both teams on the road Oct. 5 and 12, respectively.

Aspen is the only 2A WSL school to participate in a zero week game, handing Meeker a 28-26 defeat Aug. 24. The Skiers will next play defending state champs Bayfield Sept. 8, while Coal Ridge hosts the Cowboys this Friday.

As for the rest of the conference, Basalt kicks off its season Friday hosting Olathe as Rifle brings in Eagle Valley, while Delta starts things big traveling to 4A Thornton Saturday.

Game one

MCHS opens its season under Friday night lights against Summit, an opponent completely new to the entire roster. The Bulldogs last met the Tigers in 2013 when both groups were at the 3A level, MoCo winning 28-21.

Summit began the season last week with a 28-0 loss on the road against Salida.

Senior quarterback Brendan Collins made the move from second-stringer to starter this year and threw nine for 17 for 50 yards, while sophomore running back Noah Martens had 97 rushing yards on 12 carries against the Spartans. As a freshman, Martens led the team — 3-7 in 2017 — in yardage at 311.

Despite the Tigers’ lack of scoring in their debut, Nelson noted that game footage showed Summit frequently hit the red zone, and if not for turnovers, the story would have been different. Therefore, he won’t allow athletes to make the mistake of underestimating their upcoming foes.

“They’re still a pretty good team, and the challenge for us is taking on a 3A school, it’s a very competitive division,” Nelson said.

As the season gets going, his focus is seeing every element gel together, with a reliable run game balanced by do-or-die defense, as well as special teams that can execute.

It’s once the first round of game time has come and gone that Nelson said he will have a better idea of what to expect down the road.

“I think we can be competitive with anybody,” he said, adding that being able to persevere in tough times will make all the difference. “We’re trying to teach them to be very aggressive with their mindset on the field as well as their physical prowess, and hopefully that’s what happens.”


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