Bulldog bests of 2021 — Part 2
For the Craig Press
Last week, we covered the highlights of Moffat County High School sports during the first half of 2021.
This week, we look back on the second part of the year and some of the biggest events for the Bulldogs.
Keep on kicking
The year 2021 meant some significant adjustments for teams in Colorado who were relegated to the one-time Season C, largely for fall activities moved to the spring.
Under new coach Diego Quezada in the spring, there were some growing pains for Bulldog boys soccer as they saw no wins apart from an unofficial game against Gunnison, which was then a JV-level team.
The fall also saw some struggles as the group battled against a tough league amid a fluctuating roster. However, the Dogs’ home opener during Homecoming week was an indicator of how teamwork could get the job done as they collected a 3-2 victory.
Following a goal by Logo Perez, senior Erick Payan scored twice more to defeat the Caprock Academy Eagles.
When MoCo soccer went on to face Caprock on the road weeks later, they earned another win, this time a 6-0 shutout courtesy of a scoring spree by freshman Cesar Quezada, a late addition to the team during the season.
A day on the links can be dependent on many factors, and while MCHS boys golf didn’t see perfect play in every outing, athletes put the pieces together well during many events.
As part of the 3A Region 4 Tournament in Cortez, sophomore Aron Jennings and senior Dave Andujo both maintained steady play for state qualification, with Jennings tying for ninth place and Andujo tying at 16th, with respective scores of 80 and 83.
However, the two of them also had solid individual rounds at opposite ends of the season, with Jennings shooting as low as 74 at the beginning of the schedule.
Conversely, Andujo came back from a mid-season injury to earn a 78 during the opening day of the state tourney, the best 18 holes he’s completed in his high school career.
In his third consecutive year at state, Andujo placed 49th with a two-day total of 167, and state novice Jennings tied for 50th at 168.
The right path
With consistent results year after year, MCHS cross-country runners continued their progress this fall, going all the way to state.
You’d be hard-pressed to pick a bad meet for the bunch, but among their best of this past fall may have been the Moffat County Invitational on the familiar paths of Loudy-Simpson Park.
Besides the camaraderie of a rare race at home that also included an event for Craig Middle School’s program — with Karson Fedinec winning the junior high boys 3K — Bulldogs got their stamina built up with the incline offered by the park’s shift from flat meadows to hills, as family and friends were in heavy attendance.
MCHS teams each took runner-up status against a huge Steamboat Springs group, with Ian Trevenen, Owen Gifford, Kale Johnson, Halle Hamilton, Emma Jones, and Bree Meats all finishing in the top 10, and the following weeks saw a multitude of season bests at the speed course of the Warrior Lincoln Park Classic.
After a competitive regional meet, Jones went on to be the lone member of the girls team to qualify for state, placing 58th, with Johnson, Gifford, Trevenen, Boden Reidhead, Alex Nichols, Forrest Siminoe, and Kadin Hume fielding a full boys team that placed 14th.
The numbers don’t lie, and Bulldog football had a standout season on the football field, arguably their best since being placed in the 2A division in 2014.
With a record of 8-2, it was the Dogs’ winningest season yet, as well as the highest scoring, with a collected total of 391-121 across 10 total matches to show their tenacity on offense and defense.
With highlights that range from briefly being the top-ranked school in the RPI listings, to three mercy rule shutouts, to never trailing once in their first seven games, selecting a specific moment from the season is not easy.
Still, a game that stands out was the league opener in Basalt as a wave of early October weather hit the stadium just before kickoff. At the time, the Longhorns were the only other undefeated team in the 2A West, and Bulldogs were expecting their first true test of grit.
The precipitation did neither team any favors, but MoCo players adapted to the wet conditions faster and got in the heads of their opponents with the same steady play they’d shown in previous weeks, staying the course as rain stopped.
With the best individuals in the 2A West League in terms of touchdowns, rushing yards, sacks, and interceptions — to name a few — the Bulldogs notched 11 All-Conference players: Evan Atkin, Ethan Hafey, Logan Hafey, Ryan Peck, Carson Miller, Ian Hafey, Cort Murphy, Caleb Squires, Myles Simpson, Trace Frederickson, and Joey Winters.
Peck, Miller and Ethan Hafey each picked up All-State Honorable Mention, while Atkin was named to the 2A All-State First Team list, finishing the fall as the rushing TD leader among all 11-man athletes, among many distinctions.
Bump it up
Like boys soccer, the Lady Bulldog volleyball program didn’t exactly thrive during Season C, going 5-8 in the spring.
By fall, players were ready and raring to make their mark, and the outcome was the best record in the sport for MoCo girls since 2007, at 11-11.
While most of their wins came in games that went to four or five sets, Lady Dogs picked up four sweeps to show their capabilities to finish off opponents swiftly.
Many of the W’s came against teams they were already expecting to beat, but in their first year under new coach Becca Sage, MoCo girls reached a new milestone in October with their first-ever victory against the Coal Ridge Titans.
During the road game, senior Abbe Adams and junior Cayden King each earned eight kills; Adams, and junior Lizzy LeWarne each took five blocks, senior Olivia Profumo had three aces; and senior setter Jacie Evenson added 25 assists.
The first victory over Coal Ridge — as well as a triumphant 3-2 season finale over Basalt — proved to be crucial in the rankings as Moffat County earned fifth in the 3A Western Slope League, also a new best.
Adams, Evenson, and Profumo each rounded out their time on the court with All-Conference honors, with Adams also named All-State Honorable Mention as the leader in the 3A WSL for total blocks with 72.
With winter sports coming around again to close out 2021, Bulldog basketball teams have had their share of early successes to head into the second portion of the season.
For boys, it’ll be hard to beat their finish at the Tiger Tipoff Tournament, during which they crushed three straight opponents: Frontier Academy (75-51), Addenbrooke Classical Academy (82-40), and Bennett (84-42).
Along with the plaque they received as the best team of the bunch at the event, the team boasted high scoring numbers as Myles Simpson collected 48 points across three games, Ian Hafey 43, and Jordan Carlson 37.
With Bulldogs controlling rebounds, Carlson, Hafey and Ryan Peck each all also earned at least one double-double during the tourney.
For the girls, the 3-4 early season has seen ups and downs, though their most promising game may have been during the Glenwood Springs Demon Invite as they bounced back from a first-round loss to get a dominating win over Roaring Fork.
Besides being their highest-scoring effort so far, the match allowed the full bench to get in the game, led in scoring by senior Rylie Felten’s presence in the paint with 15 points, Lizzy LeWarne earning 13 points and Halle Hamilton 10.
LeWarne picked up her first double-double of the season with a dozen rebounds against the Rams. She went on to get another double by putting up 10 points and 10 boards against Uintah in the 37-36 loss for the girls’ final game of December.
A newly configured schedule for Moffat County Bulldog hockey has allowed them much more playing time than last season as they have competed in both the fall and winter.
The fall season exclusively in November saw the 18 and under team 2-5-1 as they got warmed up for the colder months.
Following that prelude, the Dogs had a renewed vigor in December, sweeping the Grand Junction River Hawks in a set of home games.
Forrest Siminoe earned a hat trick in a 7-5 win that started the series and led to a 5-2 W afterward. All told, the weekend included goals by Garett Stockman, Garrett Anson, Brant Gutierrez, Logan Durham, and Zane Durham to get the Dogs in fighting shape.
Gimme an M! Gimme a C!
The MCHS spirit team was a frequent presence this fall as Bulldog football had its banner year, but the Bulldog cheerleaders had their shot at glory during December’s state spirit championships in Colorado Springs.
The squad had fewer members than it did back in autumn, but a four-girl team of Madason Laman, Zoey Cochran, Alexus Noland and Olivia Cordova showed their skills at state as the smallest group of all.
Their routine earned ninth place in the 2A/3A Gameday category out of 24 teams, with 72.45 points in the preliminary round, as well as zero deductions.
As one of the smaller programs on the Western Slope, MCHS swimming’s consistently strong results are usually more apparent through times than placements.
However, sometimes it’s both.
During the Delta Invite, MoCo swimmers took their first of hopefully more wins this season, with gold honors in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The grouping of Sarah Johnson, Morgan Schacht, Natalia Lopez, and Megan Neton was the first attempt at the longer race for the Bulldogs so far this season, and they burned past two Fruita Monument competitors in the other lanes at a time of 5:14.33, finishing a full 36 seconds ahead of the runners-up.
The same meet also saw the same foursome take fourth in the 200 medley relay, as well as Johnson taking third in the 100 free and fourth in the 100 breaststroke, Neton fourth in the 50 free, Schacht fifth in the 500 free, and Lopez sixth in the breaststroke as they and their teammates keep pressing forward.
With wrestling season back in gear, a fuller roster and a more robust schedule will only help the Bulldog grapplers on the mat.
A dearth of tournament format events in the 2020-21 school year had its pros and cons for athletes, but nobody on the Moffat County crew was complaining about getting back to that style this winter.
MCHS wrestling had its objectively best weekend so far at Delta’s Panther Invitational, with nearly everyone on the varsity lineup placing as part of the Bulldogs’ second-place team effort.
Winning their weights for the weekend were Kaden Hixson (120 pounds), Anthony Duran (126), and Ryan Duzik (152), each of them winning every bout by pin.
Caden Call (138) and Michael Voloshin (160) each finished as runners-up, both with only one loss and five pins between them, while Colt Call (113), Eli Fredrickson (132), Kalub West (145) all placed third, Billy Lawton fourth in 182, and Alex Musgrave fifth in 170.
The same weekend saw Noah Duran (120) and Kaeden Martinez (138) win their weights at the Rifle JV Invite, at which the Bulldogs also took second in team scores.
With the holiday break soon ending, MCHS wrestlers will compete this weekend in Vernal, Utah during the two-day Tournament of Champions for both varsity and JV athletes, while MoCo boys basketball will host Liberty Common Saturday.
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Tanner Coulter and his family were looking for somewhere to spread out a bit.