High hopes for home opener as Moffat County football hosts Battle Mountain
Two games into the season, a 2-0 record is exactly the bottom line any coach would want, and having that tally at this point for the second year is even better.
Still, Moffat County High School football coach Jamie Nelson knows all that matters is the next game. And, the location of the next match puts him more at ease than he was last season.
MCHS hosts its home opener this weekend with a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday at the Bulldog Proving Grounds, 900 Finley Lane.
MoCo heads into its third week of competition against the 2-1 Battle Mountain Huskies of Edwards, the Dogs’ third straight 3A opponent.
Just as the Bulldogs are experiencing a bit of déja vu with wins over Summit and Steamboat Springs to start the fall — as they did in 2018 — Battle Mountain is also off on the same path.
Finishing 2018 at 6-4, the Huskies hit it hard at the beginning with a narrow W over Middle Park and a massacre of Alameda. Scores aside, it’s been the same story so far — Zero Week saw them defeat the Panthers 27-23, followed by a 49-0 blowout against the Pirates.
The narrative played out the same in their first loss as well. Saturday saw them fall 28-0 in Basalt, admittedly better than the humbling 47-6 the Huskies posted last year against the Longhorns, who will host Moffat County Oct. 4.
Battle Mountain’s defensive capabilities were on display in their game with Alameda with turnovers galore as the Pirates surrendered six interceptions, three fumbles and a blocked punt.
Hezekiah Gongaware and Jimmy Hancock each also recorded two sacks against the Panthers in the first week, a game which saw Battle Mountain take plentiful tackles for loss.
On offense, the Huskies look to Gongaware as their go-to running back with 184 yards during the two wins, while quarterback Kai Haggen has three touchdown passes so far with a combined 251 yards against Middle Park and Alameda.
“They’ve completely changed up their offense from last year,” Nelson said of Battle Mountain. “They used to be the double-wing, double-tight, and now they’re spreading it out a little bit with three or four receivers at a time. They’re running some power scheme in the run game. That’s their strong point.”
In two games, MoCo’s Kevin Hernandez has 258 yards rushing, 84 receiving yards and five TDs, while QB Ryan Peck threw for nearly 200 yards last week in Steamboat, including three TDs.
So far, Bulldogs have nabbed three picks — two by Dagan White — and have a combined seven sacks, including Hernandez’s strip of the ball against the Sailors that allowed Joe Campagna to get the fumble recovery score from midfield.
When last the Bulldogs and the Huskies faced off, MCHS had its first loss of the year, 28-14, though Nelson expects a home crowd will make a huge difference this time.
“Last year, we didn’t show up until the second half,” he said. “This year it’s flipped, and we’ve got two road wins. Coming out early is a lot easier to do at home than on the road, so I’m hoping for a lot better energy. They’ve got one more game over us, but we keep building our confidence.”
The night will also include the first in a series of Fifth Quarter events with a kickball tournament hosted by Bear River Young Life, with $1 admission buying entry and pizza.
As part of Friday’s game, the night will include Military Appreciation Night festivities to honor local veterans, including special jerseys to salute the troops.
“I had that planned all last summer, and players get to buy it and keep it and hopefully we can use those the next couple years,” Nelson said. “It’s not about us, it’s all about celebrating all the gentlemen that have allowed us to be here.”