Committed to winning |

Committed to winning

Bulldogs football travels to Steamboat Springs on Friday for match-up against rival Sailors

John Vandelinder

— Moffat County head football coach Kip Hafey has a serious but enthusiastic look on his face as he reviews the several offensive and defensive game sheets scattered on his desk.

You see, it’s rivalry weekend.

Hafey has put in more hours than usual heading into Friday’s road contest against Steamboat Springs, and he is all too aware of the importance of this game.

Both teams are searching for their second Western Slope League victory in a division that sends four of eight teams to the playoffs.

“We need to come out and establish ourselves early in this game,” Hafey said. “In this division, every game counts.”

In a contest where experience is moved to the forefront, the Bulldogs will be missing two seniors.

Nose guard/center Travis Wilson and linebacker Robert Daniels won’t suit up Friday.

Injuries have thinned out the starting unit, but Hafey said it’s a part of high school football one should come to expect.

“That’s 3A football,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

“We have a bunch of younger kids that are going to get the chance to step up. They have to make the best of the opportunity.”

Steamboat coach Aaron Finch is in a similar position.

“We have been hit by injury, as well,” he said. “We are starting five sophomores this week because of it. You just put them out there in a position to succeed and hope that their hard work pays off.”

The past four times the teams have met, the visiting team won.

“It’s an exciting rivalry for sure,” Finch said. “These kids have been playing against one another since the seventh grade. It’s a long-standing rivalry on all levels.”

Despite the intensity between these two foes, an untarnished game is the focus on both coaches’ minds.

“Coach Hafey and I have talked in recent years about getting rid of the stupid stuff when we play,” Finch said. “We want a focused, clean contest.”

Hafey stressed the importance of his squad being focused on playing for each other, not singular achievements.

“It’s all about commitment. Commitment toward improvement, commitment to the team and commitment to winning.”

Hafey has been working on controlling the time of possession, noting strategy will be pivotal toward a successful game.

“We need to sustain long drives and keep their offense off the field,” he said. “Even if we end up punting, we need to chew up some clock before we do. We have to cut down on the three-and-outs.”

The Bulldogs will try to control the clock by pounding the ball with senior Eli Buckner, who amassed 131 rushing yards last week in the Bulldogs’ 20-6 loss to Eagle Valley.

“If we can establish Buckner early, that should take some pressure off of our quarterback,” Hafey said. “Whether we pass or run, we need to be consistent with it.”

Defensive coordinator Lance Scranton said the Bulldogs would show a similar look on the defense, but with a few twists.

“We’ll have the same base (3-5), but we are going to spread it out a bit,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons over there that we need to worry about.

“They have a great back that we need to shut down.”

The Sailors’ Jay Hanley leads Steamboat Springs with 482 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

“We have got to show up ready to play,” Scranton said. “It should be a back-and-forth battle, a great game.

“But it’s Steamboat. We absolutely want to win.”

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