Moffat County football ends season with heavy-hitting playoff game vs. University
Either way, a Bulldog team was going to win Saturday afternoon on the Moffat County High School field, but the eventual victor was not the one most of the crowd were hoping to see. MCHS football’s season came to a close sooner than they would have liked, with a 28-14 loss in the opening round of the 2A playoffs to Greeley’s University Bulldogs.
Ranked fifth in the postseason with only one previous loss this fall, Moffat County had the home field advantage and plenty of statistical leads before the match up, but the bulky University Bulldogs proved to be a lot to handle.
Neither team came out on fire on their opening drives, but University quarterback Greg Garza sent a deep throw early in the game to receiver Kanon Padilla that amounted to an 82-yard touchdown to get the scoring started.
However, MCHS senior Taran Teeter, who was back on the field after several weeks on the sidelines, blocked the extra point.
“We felt pretty strong, but these dudes are physical,” Teeter said.
MoCo QB Ryan Peck was picked off by Jacob Cruz afterward and though the visitor Bulldogs couldn’t get much momentum, a perfectly placed punt started MCHS at their own 1-yard line.
Moffat County was forced to punt to start the second quarter — only to get the ball right back as University touched the ball unintentionally, and MoCo players dove on it. After a big catch by Carson Miller to get them in the red zone, Peck attempted an unsuccessful 26-yard field goal on fourth down.
An abundance of MoCo penalties aided University on the turnaround, though Cort Murphy nearly added another interception to his list of turnovers this season.
“It was out of my reach, but I could have stepped back more and gotten it, Murphy said. “I just kind of lost it in the sun.”
With one short gain after another, a 10-yard TD pass to Tayt Chacon got the total up to 13-0 for University.
After Peck got sacked twice in a row, another MCHS punt and another University flub gave Moffat County possession again, and junior Evan Atkin started getting to work with a big sweep and a double pass play to Miller to get in scoring position. Atkin went on to score on a 7-yard rush with Peck picking up the PAT to make it 13-7.
The MoCo defensive effort looked good late in the first half and forced a University punt with less than a minute remaining. With senior Ethan Hafey making a grab and dragging a defender out of bounds, two seconds were left.
The final play of the half was upsetting for both teams as Peck was intercepted by Kian Baxley, while University just missed a pick-six as Atkin caught up to Baxley just before the goal line on the return.
Moffat County made a big, booming statement after the break as Hafey snagged the second half kickoff, facing few defenders as he ran it all the way back for the MCHS Dogs’ first kickoff return touchdown of the season.
“I’ve always wanted to do one in my high school career, and I was happy about that, but it comes from all my blockers up front,” Hafey said.
With a 14-13 MCHS lead, University kept up their intensity and took advantage of a MoCo offsides call on fourth down that let them keep the drive alive. Garza walked it into the end zone from five yards and then converted the two-point effort to make it 21-14.
“Since they were running it 90% of the time, we were doing all we could to strip the ball,” Murphy said.
Spirits were high for the home team, but the energy shifted greatly as Atkin took a hard tackle on the sideline. After absorbing hundreds of hits this fall, this one was bad enough to take him out of the game with a brutal lower leg injury.
“Losing Evan was kind of the nail in the coffin, I can’t kid you,” MCHS head coach Lance Scranton said. “We still hung in on defense. The kids have really had that ‘next-man-up’ mentality all year. It was just one of those things, you run out of time.”
MCHS players attempted to rally on Atkin’s behalf, but the fourth quarter began unceremoniously with a failed pass attempt on fourth down. University kept the ball for nearly the rest of the game with short but successful runs to wind down the clock.
Casey Doss noted that while Garza has been a capable slinger all year, his scouting of the MCHS field revealed what kind of game plan he’d need.
“The way our quarterback ran and our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage did it for us more than anything else, and we hit some big passes when we needed them,” he said. “We knew we’d have to be able to come in and run the ball with this wind and the way it swirls. We saw on film how that wind can be nasty. Moffat played extremely well — very physical game.”
Another 10-yard TD catch by Chacon ended the day to move University on to the quarterfinals against 2A West champion Delta, who rolled Alamosa 45-14.
“We sputtered a bit on offense, but University had a good scheme coming in. Hats off to them, and good luck to them in the next round,” Scranton said. “Every year it seems like we get a little closer.”
Though nobody on the Moffat County roster was happy being on the wrong side of the upset, seniors were especially emotional.
“It was just fun — best season I could ask for,” Teeter said. “We really gave it our all.”
Peck said he was glad to see his teammates keep going even as the game came to a close.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team, the way we fought and tried to step it up once Evan got hurt,” Peck said. “He’s an All-State player for a reason.”
Fellow upperclassmen Trace Frederickson said he’ll most miss the teammates to whom he’s grown close.
“I really wasn’t in a lot on offense today, since we were trying to run more of a spread, but I tried to come out like it was my last game,” he said. “I’m going to miss being around football and people that are now my brothers.”
As for siblings Ian, Ethan and Logan Hafey, only one will move on to play Bulldog football again next year, but senior twins Ethan and Logan look back on this year as one of many huge accomplishments.
“All the games that we swept other teams, that kind of thing hasn’t happened in a long time,” Logan said. “This year really helped Moffat County build up its name again and say, ‘We’re back and we’re gonna be there every year.’”
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