Craig Middle School football season opens with glorious victories, crushing defeats
Between the pee-wee level of pigskin and the big-time gridiron of Moffat County High School is the hard-hitting, knock-around sessions of Craig Middle School, and the seventh- and eighth-grade athletes hit the field hard for their first week of competition.
Both squads stood at 1-1 after home games Thursday against Meeker and Saturday against Rawlins, Wyoming.
The seventh-graders took a 20-8 defeat to the Cowboys to kick off their schedule, facing an uphill battle with the Meeker opposition but still gaining a late touchdown on rushing from Jaden Gallegos.
Alternately, the eighth-graders stomped Meeker from the start, going into halftime with a 20-0 lead, riding that all the way to a massive 50-18 victory.
The story was flipped when the Bulldogs hosted the Colts Saturday morning, as the seventh-grade defense yielded little yardage to the Wyoming visitors on their way to a 20-0 shutout.
“Penalties were our biggest concern Thursday and getting in the right position,” coach Brice Smith said. “We still had some troubles with that, but we did a good job running the plays we wanted to run. We definitely hammer fundamentals in and just getting formations right so we don’t get any silly false starts.”
After their big first win, eighth-grade Bulldogs came out confident against Rawlins, only to have nearly everything go wrong offensively in the first half, trailing 12-0.
The third quarter wasn’t much better until Chayton McDonald chewed up more than half the field on a running rampage to get spirits boosted as the period ended.
The group truly showed their grit in the last eight minutes, as Evan Atkin snagged a pass from Cort Murphy to bolt nearly 50 yards for the group’s first TD of the day with about 90 seconds remaining.
Atkins then dove on the onside kick to give possession right back to the Dogs, and a march downfield looked like the boys in blue were about to pull off the comeback, only for a Colt interception and clock management to give it to Rawlins at 12-6.
Though frustrated with the loss, coach Tony Maneotis commended players for keeping it physical late in the game.
“Totally different ball team than Meeker,” he said of Rawlins. “I think the kids came out thinking they wouldn’t be that tough.”
A pass interference call against Atkin that had the Bulldog stands in an uproar may have been one of the deciding factors in the game, though Maneotis added there were plenty more opportunities to make something happen before that.
“Sometime the flag flies our way, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.
CMS teams will next host Steamboat Springs Sept. 18, and the practice time can only help, Maneotis said.
“We had some guys that got some injuries and that hurts us all. We’ve got good numbers, but we’re weak in some spots. Looks like we might need a little more conditioning.” he said. “We’ll get better, just takes time.”
A blend of Northwest Colorado imagery and splashy colors now greets Craig drivers and pedestrians.