Bulldog bests: Moffat County athletes reflect on senior seasons leading up to Dude Dent ceremony
For the Craig Press
On May 17, Moffat County High School plan to acknowledge some of its best and brightest student-athletes for the Class of 2021 with the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award ceremony.
The namesake of the top accolade for athletic students is Lewis Dent, a 1939 Craig High School graduate well known for his proficiency in multiple sports, including football, basketball and track. An athlete at Colorado State University — then Colorado A&M — he went on to enlist in the United States’ military effort in World War II and was killed in action in 1944.
An award bearing Dent’s name has been part of MCHS sports since 1957, later followed by Outstanding Female Athlete in 1977, both celebrating well-rounded pupils who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in athletic competition.
The Craig Press will showcase this year’s nominees leading up to the award ceremony.
Caleb Frink — Football, wrestling, track and field
Many high school football players would consider themselves lucky to have a single game where they have more than 100 yards of combined yardage.
Caleb Frink did it four times this season alone.
In his first and only year with the Bulldog gridiron program, Frink was a tremendous asset on offense, a running back who compiled 592 rushing yards, 103 receiving yards and plenty more in kick and punt returns, some considerable numbers with only five games on the schedule.
Yet, even with multiple highlights including a 99-yard touchdown run, nine total TDs, and a 2A West League-best 118 yards per game average, his point of pride was the accomplishments achieved as a team rather than just by himself.
“Winning the league and never losing a home game, those were two special things,” Frink said. “That and getting to play in a playoff game. At Grand Valley, I never got to be in a playoff game or even won a home game.”
Frink moved to Craig after spending most of his athletic career at Grand Valley, where he played football as well as competing in wrestling and track and field. With a successful 27-17 freshman record, he later had to give up grappling with the Cardinals after a knee injury.
As far as track, he saw his best results as a freshman in the long jump with a league title but was just shy of qualifying for state, something he plans to do now that he’s with Moffat County, hopefully in sprints and relays as well.
The extended track schedule that will go into late June will be beneficial to Frink, who sees the spring season as good training for the next phase of his sports life: football at Colorado School of Mines.
Frink committed to the college before his senior year and, despite being a star for the Bulldogs on offense, he will play defensive back at the higher level. As a safety, he earned two interceptions in the fall, yet he expects his skill set of speed and agility will prompt School of Mines to utilize him as a cornerback.
“They have some big kids already, so I think corner will be a good fit for me,” he said.
With accolades like All-Conference First Team and All-State First Team from Colorado High School Activities Association, Frink noted that being nominated for the Dude Dent award is something he takes as a great honor.
“I was honored to be up for something like that, because I know it’s a big deal around here. Grand Valley has Male Athlete of the Year, which is similar, but it sounds like this one is more of a big thing and they take it really serious,” he said.
Blake Juergens — Football, wrestling, track and field
After not quite making it to the highest level of his favorite sport on more than one occasion, Blake Juergens wasn’t about to quit in his senior year.
And, even with unusual conditions and rules not helping him, he finally accomplished his goal.
A regular on the football and wrestling rosters — as well as a track and field competitor as a freshman — Juergens was unsure how and when sports would happen during the COVID pandemic, yet he was pleasantly surprised when the MoCo pigskin season was suddenly announced to be taking place in the fall rather than the planned spring.
“As far as the coaches knew it would be in the spring, so we weren’t progressing super-rapidly, but then we found out we’d have the opportunity to play, and then it was full go, handing out helmets and pads and get ready,” he said.
While not one of the most frequent targets on the field, Juergens’ skills as a receiver paid off big for the Bulldogs during the Homecoming game against Woodland Park as he earned not one but two touchdown catches. Juergens also received All-Conference Honorable Mention for football.
Juergens was especially excited for the wrestling season, the start of which was likewise delayed, though he and teammates were able to compete in pre-season tournaments at a club level. And, when official practices finally did begin, he took it seriously.
“The shorter season, the tempo in the room picked up and everyone knew, ‘we don’t have time to mess around,’ he said. “Practices were good, you were pretty tired after every one.”
Juergens was eager to outdo himself from previous years, placing fifth at regionals as both a freshman and junior, just outside of state qualification. To make matters worse, he was agonizingly close to making the cut each time, with the opportunity to keep fourth place resulting in a defeat by decision.
This year was even trickier, since health restrictions cut the number of state-bound kids from each region down from four to two.
And, though he was denied the 138-pound regional crown, Juergens gritted his teeth through the consolation round to place third, then challenge Gunnison’s Rylin Gallegos for “true second,” a bout he won.
“I wanted my last match to at least be at state,” he said. “Every time I advanced through the brackets, I had met pretty much every one of those kids before.”
At state, Juergens fell by major decision to the same Rifle foe he had seen many times before, ultimately finishing his senior season with an 18-6 record, the most takedowns of anyone on the MCHS roster, and most importantly, the knowledge he had given everything he had.
As far as after graduation, Juergens said he will start training at electrical lineman school this August in Colorado Springs, eager to start a career.
“Sports have been fun in high school and I had a good run, but now it’s time to buckle down and get things all lined up for life,” he said.
Juergens noted that his senior year gave him plenty of lessons to pass on to younger students.
“Take advantage of the time you’re given,” he said. “With all this pandemic stuff happening, things can be taken away from you, things can be shortened, so when you finally do get the opportunity, especially being senior, you’ve gotta go for it and give it everything you have.”
Corey Scranton — Football, track and field
The role of a football lineman can be a thankless one, as quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get most of the glory.
Corey Scranton didn’t do the job for recognition, yet when you do something well, you tend to get noticed anyway.
Scranton has been a formidable athlete on either side of the ball since his sophomore year, both as a protector of the backfield as an offensive guard and a force to be reckoned with as a defensive tackle.
While the Bulldogs were in the toughest conference in the state in 2019, Scranton’s junior year saw the team make a return to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Recognized for his prowess before his senior season even started with a nod from Colorado Prep Report as one of the best returning defensive players in the state, he also became a co-captain along with fellow senior Daniel Cruz.
The Bulldog football season may have been short, yet it was certainly sweet, and Scranton and his fellow linemen were a significant part of the group’s success, going undefeated in the newly configured 2A West League, including a 26-20 defeat of perennial powerhouse Delta to round out conference play.
While he notched 26 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks overall, Scranton found himself making a highlight play most unexpectedly in the Dogs’ final game of the season.
Paired up in the playoffs against the top-ranked Resurrection Christian Cougars, MoCo provided a smothering defensive effort right away, and a quarterback fumble at midfield gave Scranton a unique opportunity as he scooped up the ball and bolted 58 yards for a touchdown, gaining the first points the Cougars had given up all season.
“I didn’t even think about it until after. I just had my mind on trying not to get caught,” he said.
Though the Dogs didn’t advance past the postseason quarterfinals, their effort didn’t go unnoticed. Scranton received All-Conference First Team and CHSAA All-State Second Team, as well as the 2A West Lineman of the Year trophy.
“It was a good way to finish out my senior year,” he said.
While he had previously served as a defenseman for the 18U team with Craig Youth Hockey Association, he committed most of this winter to weight training, keeping up the trend he had taken into high gear before football season.
“I lifted all summer. I bench, squat and power clean. My bench was my best, 385,” he said.
Building up his strength has also played into his current function as a shot put and discus thrower for the track and field team.
“Starting out this year on disc, I got back to about where I was sophomore year, so hopefully I’ll be able to progress,” he said of the season still yet to come.
Scranton is the third in his family to be nominated for the Dude Dent award, with older brothers Connor and Cale up for the honor in 2017 and 2019, respectively, with Cale winning it.
Though he’s bounced around to multiple sports — including basketball and wrestling in middle school — Scranton said football is undoubtedly his preferred activity.
“It’s been my main sport since I was little, the one I like the most,” he said.
As such, he signed his letter of intent in February to join the line corps at Western Colorado University — Cale also signed with the Mountaineers two years ago — though his exact position is still up in the air.
“They’re not sure where they’re going to put me just yet. For college, defense is probably better just because of my size,” he said.
Of all the achievements in the past year, Scranton said it was being a team captain that he took most seriously.
“I was just trying to help everyone out. Being a leader makes you better at the same time, because you have to be an example for everyone,” he said.
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