Moffat County fall sports teams see great achievement
The winter sports season is coming up fast for Moffat County High School, and as the Bulldogs head back into the fray of athletic excellence again, we look back at a fall that saw a great deal of achievement by MoCo sports teams.
The season is only half-done for Moffat County rodeo competitors, but once the action gets going again in April, the group’s fall feats puts them in solid position.
In the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association standings, Hamilton bull riders Cooper McClain and Clay Durham stand at first and fourth in the rankings, while Craig’s Pepper Rhyne ended the fall second in tie down roping and Kaden Cox third in rifle shooting for high school ages.
At the junior high level, defending state champion bull rider Logan Durham is nearly uncatchable in the point count, remaining the top competitor in the event after a solid autumn.
Maybell’s Cactus Barnes finished the fall tied at second in chute dogging.
Just outside of the top four that will eventually move on to the national round next summer, Craig’s Katie Jo Knez aims to be back at the big time, currently fifth in both girls goat tying and breakaway, while Jolene Rhyne heads into the spring ranked fifth in both the all-around rankings and in barrel racing.
With a handful of players out for the team and a first-year coach at the helm, golfers had a late start to an already shortened schedule working against them.
Even so, the season wound up being one of the better finishes the Bulldogs have experienced in recent years.
The golf program was represented by both Dave Andujo and Tanner Etzler at the 3A CHSAA State Championships, who attended the final tournament at the Air Force Academy following a strong round at the 3A Region 4 tourney in Aspen, each shooting a 91.
The state event proved more challenging than the pair reckoned for the pair — placing 76th and 84, respectively — though both will be ready for the next fall.
“Overall, it was a really good experience that will motivate them for next year. Now they know what to expect and how to be more mentally prepared,” coach Tim Adams said.
No team this fall felt the sting of low numbers more than Bulldog boys soccer, as upheaval among the group led to multiple short-handed games.
A win against Fruita Monument’s junior varsity team would be their only victory in the 1-13 year, though leading scorer Erik Payan went on to an All-Conference distinction — tied for fifth in total goals for the 3A Western Slope League with 10 — with Mario Nunez taking All-Conference Honorable Mention.
Goalie Sabastian Hershiser led the league in saves with 243.
Despite the struggles, coach Nathalie Boelen said the season was one of big improvements.
“This season was very positive after behavior and grade issues cause our numbers to drop. The attitude and moral on the team was 100% better than last year. The returning players and new players that finished the season worked very hard and continued to keep their heads up even after continuous losses,” she said. “I look forward to coaching these boys again next year and slowly building the program into a program of boys that are well respected by the community and can compete with and beat our conference.”
Amid a cutthroat conference schedule that saw the Lady Bulldogs finish eighth of 10 teams at 3-6, the MCHS volleyball program nonetheless posted its best season record of the decade, with a 9-14 tally for the first time since 2009.
MoCo girls fought for every point, with five matches going the full five sets — three of which the Dogs won — individual statistics were strong even if the scoreboard wasn’t always favorable.
Jacie Evenson took All-Conference Honorable Mention as Moffat County’s starting setter, ranked second in the 3A WSL for assists, with 437 total.
At the service line, Olivia Profumo was third in the conference in aces (48) and Faith Morgan fifth (43). Net players Cayden King and Abbe Adams led the team in blocks with 66 and 56, respectively, ranked fourth and sixth in the league, while King tied for 10th in kills (131) and Adams took 12th (128).
“I am thankful for the effort and passion of our players,” coach Jessica Profumo said. “They really were willing to learn and I know this young team has greatness ahead of them.”
As perennial state competitors, Bulldog distance runners were no different this year in terms of tenacity albeit with physical challenges.
MCHS earned multiple group victories during the season — including a team win for girls at the Liberty Bell Invitational and boys at the home race — as well as individual ones, with Wyatt Mortenson the first to cross the finish line at both while recovering from injuries.
Still, a field of driven Western Slope teams made the 3A Region 1 Meet a rough one in El Jebel, with both Bulldog squads earning third in group totals, with Mortenson leading boys with the bronze and Kelsey McDiffett seventh for girls, with the Coltyn Terry, Keaton Knez, Kale Johnson, Ian Trevenen, Noah Mortenson, Alex Nichols, Wilson Eike, Garrett Mercer, Halle Hamilton, Stephenie Swindler, Emma Jones, Alayna Behrman, Emaleigh Papierski, Bree Meats, Mackenzi Telford and Tiana Nichols each giving their all to get the program back to the state race at Colorado Springs.
Wyatt Mortenson rounded out the top 20 at the Norris Penrose Event Center — which earned him All-State Honorable Mention — while McDiffett ranked 36th, with boys 13th and girls 11th among 3A teams.
With only two seniors, coach Todd Trapp noted the majority of the cross country team will be back next fall.
“Getting that experience here, I hope they’re hungry. They definitely should be hungry for next year,” he said.
Fierce opponents make for better competitors, as was the case for the Bulldog gridiron, whose season couldn’t have started better with a 4-0 early season, the best beginning the Dogs have had since 2005.
Even so, all the 2A teams that held that record were in the Western Slope League, and MoCo was faced with a powerhouse conference part of the fall, going 1-4 in the WSL.
The beatdowns by Basalt, Rifle and Delta were tough, but the foes’ high rankings still benefitted the Bulldogs enough to keep them in the 2A postseason, the team’s first playoff game since 2015.
A lengthy road trip to Sterling proved brutal as the Tigers — who face off against Delta this weekend for the 2A title — caused multiple injuries to the Moffat County bunch in a lopsided contest.
Still, the 5-5 final record was one Bulldog players and coaches took pride in, as well as many of the numbers athletes posted, particularly on defense.
Linebackers Joe Campagna and Taran Teeter led the 2A WSL in tackles for the regular season, 92 and 90, respectively, while defensive back Dagan White gained four interceptions for the Dogs, the best in the league leading up to playoffs.
As the youngest starting quarterback in the conference, Ryan Peck ended the year with 1,130 passing yards.
Campagna and linemen Daniel Cruz and Corey Scranton each took All-Conference First Team, while Honorable Mention went to Teeter, White and defensive end Logan Hafey.
Scranton and Blake Juergens also took Academic All-State at the football awards banquet.
“The season had its ups and downs, but all in all it was very successful,” said head coach Jamie Nelson. “These kids’ effort and dedication did that.”