Moffat County football falls to Battle Mountain in dogfight road game
EDWARDS — Maybe it was due to two teams with canine nicknames or perhaps that one of them continually ran straight up the middle, but a lot of dog piles were on display during Friday’s matchup between Moffat County High School and Battle Mountain.
Yet, only one side could come out the top of the heap.
MCHS suffered the first defeat of its season with a 36-14 loss to the Huskies in the Bulldogs’ first away game.
Dogging it, for better or worse
The normal travel woes were part of what was working against the Dogs during their first time on the road this fall, though it was far from their only issue upon kickoff.
MCHS received only to go three and out to start, while the Huskies, seeking to rebound from a 47-6 beatdown by Basalt the week before, quickly gaining traction in the run game on the strength of Hezekiah Gongaware, who looked to be proving himself for any scouts in the stands with a 40-yard dash that got Battle Mountain to Moffat’s red zone.
Moments later, Gongaware dove over the goal line from three yards out for the first of many Husky touchdowns.
The Battle Mountain offense came back out in no time thanks to an interception of MCHS quarterback Colby Beaver by Husky Garrett Anderson. Gongaware broke loose again for a rush that would have been another TD had an illegal block not kept the Huskies at the Bulldog 18.
The MCHS defensive line wasn’t having any more of Gongaware’s tactic of ramming right through them, so the Huskies made other moves as QB Traver Goldberg scrambled around them for a 10-yard score.
Another three-and-out led to a bad punt attempt for the Bulldogs as Battle Mountain took over on their 25, getting closer and closer to another TD as the first quarter closed 14-0.
The second period proved to be the Dogs’ most solid as they stood their ground from six yards out to stop the Huskies from converting a fourth down. Though they were forced to punt again, Kameron Baker got the ball back soon with a fumble recovery.
Battle Mountain gained their own turnover shortly after, but a high snap to Goldberg led to almost 20 yards lost and a sack at the 2-yard line. The Huskies punted, but the Dogs marched right back into their territory as Kevin Hernandez sauntered his way to a TD on an 18-yard draw play to make it 14-7.
The Huskies’ next drive stopped short when Dagan White gained his second interception in as many games, yet neither team could do much beyond trading punts. A Hail Mary by Beaver with two seconds on the clock in the half was picked off by Battle Mountain’s Eric Biggs, quickly brought down by incensed receiver Victor Silva.
Bulldogs returned to the stadium determined to make the rest of the game theirs. Unfortunately, no one informed Biggs, who fielded the kickoff return for more than 80 yards and what would ultimately be the game-winning touchdown, with Goldberg scoring the following two-point conversion.
And, the Dogs found that when it rains, it pours, as running backs Hernandez and Teeter came off the field at various intervals with small injuries, while Angel Rodriguez sat out the second half altogether with a possible head injury.
With a shoulder issue from the week before, Cale Scranton was out nearly the full game apart from taking the snap and holding the ball for PAT’s by Joahan Quezada.
Quezada did get a chance at another extra point in the game’s final minute, as Beaver and his receivers started to pick up steam late in the game, with a much-needed fourth down catch by Joe Campagna and a tricky grab right in the end zone by Connor Etzler on the 28-yard throw from Beaver, his longest of the night.
Still, the game was already done at that point, with the Huskies’ Nick Walter scoring twice in the fourth quarter. The first came off a three-yard rush and the second was a pick-six that served as an unamused response to an interception for the Dogs by Silva.
By the numbers
Beaver picked up 93 passing yards, hitting seven of 25 targets, as well as three interceptions. The Bulldog QB also kept the ball eight times, amassing 17 yards.
Jamie Nelson said he is hoping to see Beaver scramble as the season goes on but also be able to better discern when he needs to get out of the pocket.
“Some of those plays were designated and others not, but with the way we’re doing things now, Colby has the ability to run a little bit more,” he said.
Hernandez rushed for 67 yards and caught for six, while Teeter gained 35 on the ground.
Drake Doherty only had two carries for seven yards, but both occasions were crucial to move the chains as the lineman went in as a fullback to add some power to the run game.
“He’ll probably keep me in more as a tackle, but if Coach just feels like doing it for a drive, I’m good. I’ve done it before,” Doherty said.
Campagna and Etzler each had 32 yards, while Dario Alexander had two catches for 23 yards, as well as 66 kick return yards.
In tackles, Teeter and Kameron Baker each had nine total to lead the count with eight for Jared Baker. Campagna and both Bakers all gained sack numbers during the night.
The loss puts the team at 2-1, which should serve as a motivator going forward, the way players look at it.
“This is where you get tested as a team,” Jared Baker said. “No matter what happens, you’ve gotta stay loyal.”
With a number of highlights, Nelson maintained the game was not a matter of failure but one of inconsistency, especially on offense.
“We had a lot of opportunities, but we just couldn’t execute when we needed to. We do things right, we just don’t do them right enough,” he said.
Moffat County moved to a three-way tie for third in the 2A Western Slope League. Fellow 2-1 teams Aspen and Delta each gained good wins at home as the Skiers crushed Cedaredge 48-12 and the Panthers squeaked past Montezuma Cortez 19-14.
At 1-2, Coal Ridge sits in sixth with a 19-0 loss to Paonia, while Rifle vies for the top spot in the conference at 3-0 after a 35-14 victory over Pueblo County.
Also in the lead is Basalt, who set up another angry opponent for the Bulldogs with a 31-0 defeat of Pagosa Springs, who will be Moffat County’s last non-league foe.
“Pagosa is going to be a strong option team, so we’ve got to be very disciplined on our defense,” Nelson said. “They’ll be ready to go again, but we need to make sure we know our assignments and everything out there.”
The Sept. 22 game with the 1-3 Pirates will be an unusual one for several reasons. The result of last-minute rescheduling following Ridge View Academy backing out of the Bulldog schedule, the match will be on neutral ground at Olathe High School as a midway point between the two schools, which represent the northwest and southwest extremes of the Western Slope.
A Saturday afternoon kickoff will also test if the Bulldogs can handle the mid-day conditions they will also see in their Sept. 29 Homecoming game with Basalt.
Either way, Nelson plans to take it in stride.
“Could be good, could be bad,” he said. “We’ll just have to see.”
New school record, outdone expectations at state mark bright future for Moffat County track and field
With Saturday bringing with it a new team record, a competition that nearly didn’t happen, and a bet with some slippery stakes, never let it be said that Moffat County High School track and field athletes don’t make their season exciting right up until the very end.