Moffat County football falls to Resurrection Christian in first round of 2A state playoffs
Bulldogs show underdogs always have something special in playoff loss to top-ranked Cougars
WINDSOR — They all knew it was a longshot, but that only made it all the more special.
Moffat County High School football held nothing back Saturday afternoon in what wound up being the final game of the fall, facing off against the No. 1 2A team, Resurrection Christian.
The Cougars had yet to allow a single point in a 5-0 regular season, and though the Bulldogs may not have walked away with the upset, a 40-14 outcome showed their opponents were by no means immortal.
In any other year, the Dogs’ 2A West League title would have ensured they hosted a first round postseason game, but with the COVID pandemic splitting the pigskin season into fall and spring schedules, depending on schools’ preferences, the playoff brackets were halved to only eight teams.
The multifaceted CHSAA ranking system also hurt the MCHS results as they were right at the bottom of the pack. But, a silver lining was neither team had a full home field advantage as the Loveland-based Resurrection Christian hosted from the field of the nearby Windsor Wizards.
A further struggle MoCo faced from the onset was a handful of its players at home under quarantine, though coaches and players alike refused to think of themselves as being hindered.
The Dogs took the opening kickoff but were held off from much progress by a bustling Cougar defense. Resurrection’s plans for an early score weren’t happening either though.
A swift march downfield for the Cougars got them as far as the 1-yard line, but quarterback Will Schrotenboer’s pass on fourth down wound up being out of bounds to let Bulldog fans breathe a sigh of relief. The MoCo offense wasn’t happening afterward, yet the wall of Bulldog D stayed stalwart as the Cougars got the ball back, and a field goal attempt sailed wide.
But, Resurrection was right back in control moments later, gaining a midfield interception. Schrotenboer floated a pass to Dylan Evans for a touchdown reception of nearly 50 yards to take the lead 7-0 with 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Despite the backfield bunch of Ryan Peck, Ethan Hafey, Caleb Frink and Evan Atkin making small gains, the Dogs weren’t seeing much big yardage as the second period began.
The Cougars, on the other hand, were nearing the red zone midway through the quarter when a flubbed snap saw their whole season dynamic change.
Schrotenboer unsuccessfully dove on the fumbled ball, but defensive tackle Corey Scranton was right there to make him regret the mistake.
Scranton scooped up the loose spheroid and sprinted like his life depended on it. He didn’t go unscathed on the return of nearly 60 yards, but a frantic Cougar tackle at the goal line saw the senior lineman spin perfectly to land in the end zone and end Resurrection’s streak of shutouts, marking the first time this year the team has been tied other than at 0-0.
The successful PAT by Chris Cox only served to infuriate the top team in the bracket as a tenacious kick return by the Cougars set them up at their own 43.
If their special teams effort was determined, the Resurrection offense’s mood was nothing short of murderous. A handoff to Eddie Lemos saw him cut through the Bulldogs like a hot knife through butter for a 57-yard rush TD to regain the advantage the team would keep for the rest of the day.
With only 10 seconds of game time to enjoy holding a draw, Moffat County’s bewilderment cost them, though they didn’t give up another touchdown in the first half. The Cougars nailed a 36-yard field goal to go to the locker room up 17-7.
With some of their key starters ailing, MoCo coaches shuffled around some of their other first-stringers, including junior Taran Teeter who remained at linebacker on defense but donned teammate Daniel Cruz’s 58 jersey to play on the offensive line.
“It was tough,” he said of the changes, which have been ongoing. “Every week I’ve been moved to fullback or line or slot. It’s fun because it’s a new experience.”
Elsewhere, sophomore Spencer Najera was experiencing his first varsity game, put in at cornerback against a very pass-heavy team.
Still, he drew on a classic trope for motivation.
“We really had a ‘David and Goliath’ mindset out there,” Najera said.
The Cougars’ opening drive of the second half wasn’t much, but the Dogs were quickly faced with 4th and 20 to force the punt. With the Cougars near the 50, a huge tackle for loss by Atkin bolstered the Bulldogs as Resurrection was now at 3rd and 15. That was all Schrotenboer needed to know as he bombed it to Lemos for a 48-yard TD catch to make it 24-7.
The MCHS defense again proved their bigger asset after Tanner Applebee picked off Peck. The Cougars moved to the 5-yard line only for a string of fouls — not to mention a sack by Ethan Hafey — to push them way back into their own territory, the result being 4th and 50 as they had no choice but to kick.
If there was any shame about that number on the Resurrection sideline, it promptly vanished as Lemos earned another interception, this time off Frink, and an increasingly flustered Bulldog lineup hurt their own cause with subsequent penalties.
The result? Cougars set up shop on the Bulldogs’ 26, and a pass to Braycen Buxman plus the PAT got the total to 31-7 late in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, Schrotenboer got his fourth and final TD pass of the afternoon with a 12-yard slant to a diving Wade Shields.
Now down 38-7, the Bulldogs knew their chances of a comeback were slim to none, but they were at least going to make the squad that had previously been unscored upon swallow a double-digit opposing score.
With only a handful of short passes for the day, Peck was looking to achieve a highlight in his throwing and finally gained it on a fourth down pass from his own 36 to teammate Donnie Quick, whose surname proved accurate as he dashed nearly all the way to other side of the field.
The 50-yard reception was the longest of the season by any Bulldog receiver and set them up at the Cougar 12.
The Bulldogs have had little issue scoring in the red zone this fall, and the same was true in their final outing. Despite some lost yardage, the Dogs again made the Cougars bleed as Frink scored his final TD of his high school career on a 13-yard draw play with about five minutes remaining.
As the leading rusher for his team and in the 2A West’s regular season, Frink knew there would be a target on his back as the playoffs began.
“They were an aggressive team,” he said of the Cougars. “It was a fun last game.”
The rest of the game was a battle of defenses, as MoCo stopped Resurrection from getting past their 40. But, a forced redo of a Cougar punt allowed them to place the ball perfectly at the Bulldog 4. With little room to do much, Peck was sacked for the safety and the day’s final score.
Peck, who was also worked in at defensive end throughout the day, said that in spite of the up and down energy, it was a tremendous personal improvement from last year’s postseason.
Peck was the Bulldog starter as a sophomore in 2019 as MCHS was seeded 15th in the playoffs and sent to Sterling. The eventual state champions quickly knocked the young QB into submission and onto the sidelines with a possible concussion.
“I don’t really remember much of the Sterling game,” Peck chuckled. “About the first play and that was it.”
The score against the Cougars wasn’t too far from last year’s results against Sterling — who will not be able to defend their 2019 title after a Saturday 14-6 stunner by No. 7 Lamar — yet the MCHS junior feels he’s learned and grown as he heads into his senior year in 2021.
“I wouldn’t trade this experience or this team for the world,” Peck said. “We had guys in new positions, and they all stepped up and gave all they had. That’s all you can ask for.”
Besides being the only team to put up points against Resurrection Christian all season, Moffat County was the only losing team in the 2A playoffs to score more than one TD as Eaton flattened Pagosa Springs 41-7 and fellow 2A West team Delta bounced Platte Valley 38-6.
“It’s really been kind of a magical year,” said MCHS head coach Lance Scranton. “We had a lot of unexpected things happen and a lot of positivity that overcame the negative things.”
Coach Scranton added that as much as he appreciated athletes playing their hearts out, it was hard not to think about those who were stuck back at home, particularly seniors who, future college ball notwithstanding, may have played their final football game ever earlier this month.
“That’s the hardest part as a coach,” he said. “My heart goes out to those guys.”
Peck threw nine for 20 in completions for a total 89 yards split along Quick, with three catches for 65 combined yards; Bryan Gonzalez, two for 12; Ethan Hafey, two for 21; as well as a pair of passes to Frink that amounted to -9.
While nearly every kick by the Cougars resulted in a touchback or dead ball, Quick also had a single punt return of 14 yards. The senior Bulldog ended the season the top receiver with 160 yards and the top returner with 109 between kickoff and punt returns.
Peck’s total throwing numbers for the year amounted to 526 yards, his completion percentage at exactly 50% with 47 of 94 passes successful. He also broke even in his TD to interception ratio with six of each this fall.
Frink had 20 carries on the day for an overall 89 yards to bring his rushing stats to 592 for the year, running the ball in for a score at least once in every game with six ground TDs as well as three catches that went into the end zone.
Of the 129 rushing yards against Resurrection, 24 went to Atkin with eight each for Peck and Ethan Hafey.
Ethan earned 1.5 sacks, teaming with Trace Frederickson on one effort, while Corey Scranton also notched a QB bringdown.
Scranton and Najera tied in the tackle tally with seven each, with six for Ethan, and four each for brother Logan Hafey as well as Teeter and Chris Sanderson.
Though unable to compete in the postseason, senior Joe Campagna was the team hits leader for the second straight year with 39 for the season, while Teeter had 34.
Logan Hafey was third in tackles at 32 as well as the leader in sacks with five.
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Recreational marijuana taxes will stay at the same rate for now in Craig, and the museum and library will have to look elsewhere for funding in the near future.