‘Dogs debut air attack at camp
LARAMIE, WYO. — Blake Kawcak was a boy among men on the offensive line last year for the Moffat County football team. This week, at the University of Wyoming football camp, it’s a different story.
“We almost completely had to start over on the line,” said the junior-to-be, who started at center last year with four seniors around him. “We’ve had some guys step up this week who had never played line before.”
Kawcak and fellow junior-to-be Cory Pike are the only returning linemen with varsity experience this year. But that doesn’t have the Bulldogs panicked.
Future junior Andrew Drake and seniors-to-be Ricky Willis and Jake Bilodeau have impressed this week at camp.
“They’ve learned fast,” Kawcak said. “It shows that they’re willing to do anything to help the team.”
Quarterback Derek Duran was impressed with his new line’s progress.
“We’re a lot bigger than people thought we were going to be,” he said. “They’ve been listening and learning well.”
Today, the Bulldogs finish up team camp at UW. Their new-look, pass-oriented offense was successful the first three days of camp.
“We played with every team,” coach Kip Hafey said. “There were teams that had more size, and we moved the ball against them.”
The last time Duran’s arm had such a workout he was playing Little League baseball.
“Last year, I maybe threw the ball six times all camp,” he said. “Now I’ve been throwing the ball six times a game, and we only have six minutes in a game.”
Gone are the 250-pound linemen and big bruising running backs that led the Bulldogs last year. The Bulldogs hope to go from being successful with size to finding success with speed.
“We didn’t entirely redo everything, but we changed a lot up,” Hafey said. “In high school, you have to look at the talent you have and adjust. We have a quick team with a lot of guys who can catch the ball and a quarterback who can throw it.”
Duran understands the plan.
“We’re going to open up the run with the pass,” he said. “In the past, it was the opposite.”
The defense is also a speed-dependent squad. One needs to look no further than upcoming senior Brandon Vigil at noseguard to see the emphasis.
“All 140 pounds of me is at noseguard,” Vigil said. “My job isn’t to knock people over but to disrupt things.”
Through the first three days of camp, the Bulldogs were equally successful in 11-on-11 games as they were last season.
“Our kids have trust in our system, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get us a win,” Hafey said. “That’s why we’ve been successful.”
The first three days of camp consisted of individual time with UW coaches for position players as well as 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 competitions. The championship for the 11-on-11 games is today.
The teams spend down-time together in the dorms or on the UW campus. That time is when the players say the team is built.
“You play football for six or seven hours, and you have the rest of the time with your team,” Duran said. “There’s so much more bonding then.”
The Bulldog coaches have an open-door policy during the camp, which means any player can approach them at any time to talk. It makes for some interesting “conversation time.”
“You never know who’s going to come in while you’re trying to sleep,” Hafey said. “Yesterday the coaches were mugged and attacked by the team while we were trying to sleep. It’s been fun.”
On Friday night, the seniors had a meeting with the coaches to set season goals and to plan the annual senior campout. The other players spent time playing video games or hanging out eating pizza.
“It’s just a lot of fun with the team,” Kawcak said. “You get to know the guys you might not normally hang out with.”
The Bulldogs had 34 players at the 28-team camp. The camp is a popular place for the Class 3A Western Slope League. Teams from Palisade, Rifle and Steamboat Springs were all there. A highlight for Moffat on Friday was a win against Palisade in 11-on-11.
Afterward, Hafey congratulated his team but also cautioned them.
“We beat Palisade, and that was outstanding,” he said. “But they’ll be a different team when we see them again and so will we.”
The identity of that team started this week. By the time the Battle of the Bulldogs comes around in October, Moffat team members will look back to this week as when it all started.
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