Moffat County football downed, 41-20, at Gunnison
Bye week will allow team to recoup energy before league opponent Battle Mountain
Going into their latest game, the Moffat County High School football coaching staff saw Friday night as an important test, not as a pass/fail methodology, but an assessment of where their athletes need to be as they go into a different level of the season.
The Bulldogs took a 41-20 defeat in Gunnison and moved to 2-2, with a close halftime score suddenly turning into a second half runaway for the 1-2 Cowboys.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Wert noted that before their latest exhibition of skills, the Bulldogs were ranked eighth in 2A ball, while Gunnison was just outside the top 10 at No. 12.
“It’s really going to lead us into the league and show us where we are as a team,” he said Thursday.
Moffat County had a slow opening, and the Cowboys were in prime position after a Bulldog punt reception went awry, giving it to their opponents and Gunnison scoring right away off a Ty Percival touchdown.
Fortune changed as Shandon Hadley grabbed the kick at the 1-yard line and turned it into a 30-yard return, he and fellow running backs Eddie Smercina and Brett Loyd keeping at it until they were at the Cowboys’ 1, and quarterback Keenan Hildebrandt finished the drive, the first of three trips over the goal line he would have in the game.
A 45-yard field goal by Luke Tovar put Gunnison in the lead only temporarily as the first quarter ended, but the Dogs started to control things starting with a fumble recovery by center Trevor Kuhn that led to another Hildy TD and yet another shortly after that as the rushing game kept going strong.
While it looked like MCHS would end the half with a commanding 20-9 lead, a fumbled punt return with 14 seconds remaining in the second quarter put the ball in the end zone. The Cowboys piled on the pigskin and then piled on some more points with the two-point conversion to finish the half 20-17.
With their confidence bolstered, Gunnison came out of the locker room guns a-blazing for a second half that went almost entirely their way, and while the Dogs held them to one TD and a field goal in the third quarter, Moffat County’s usual late game stamina wasn’t what it was in past weeks as Gunnison scored twice more in the fourth and were all over multiple fumbles.
Hadley led rushing with 108 yards, Hildebrandt 64, Smercina 48 and Loyd 34, while in receiving, Kearn Gerber caught for 32 yards, Loyd for 11 and Smercina nine off a last-second catch thrown by freshman QB Colby Beaver.
The loss is disheartening yet comes at the right time, letting coaches know where they need to make adjustments with time to spare as they prepare for league matches from here.
Head coach Keith Gille said the next week, a bye for the team, will let varsity players refocus academically and also have a brief day off from practice before getting right back into it.
“We’ll be getting ready for Battle Mountain and getting ready for the Western Slope North and defending our league championship, real excited about that,” he said.
Ensuring the many seniors are doing well in the classroom and on the field is a priority, as well.
“We want to make sure they’re having their needs met and meeting their goals for what they want out of football and where it’s going to take them,” Gille said.
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