Moffat County football fights to finish in state semis with top 2A team Delta
After hitting a milestone that hadn’t been reached in 17 years and then another that hadn’t been seen by their team in 30 years, Moffat County football players didn’t stop working to set the next big mark Saturday in what would be their final time on the field.
MCHS took on the No. 1 school in the 2A state semifinals, ultimately falling 28-10 to the Delta Panthers.
The Panther offense that’s been all but unstoppable this fall proved a lot for the Bulldogs to handle, as they honed in on the end zone early and often, holding a 21-0 lead by the midpoint of the second quarter.
Conversely, MoCo’s playmakers were able to make big things happen in fits and starts as quarterback Evan Beaver worked around the ball, yet crossing the goal line was not to be in the first half.
Moffat County coaches got creative as they worked in some surprises for the Panthers, such as senior Ian Hafey taking wildcat snaps and junior Clayton Vandersluis being moved from the O-line to the backfield for a few carries.
Even if it didn’t amount to a touchdown, it put them in position for a 20-yard field goal by junior Paul Dorwarth to get on the scoreboard.
A fumble recovery by senior Bryant Carlson with two minutes remaining in the half gave them new hope thanks to senior Jimi Jimenez getting the pigskin loose.
“I grabbed both his arms and pulled them,” Jimenez said with a smile. “I guess I did it right.”
Beaver nearly repeated his Hail Mary pass two weeks earlier to Carlson near the close of the half, only for Delta to grab the interception in the end zone to send them both to the locker room.
One good pick deserved another, as Panther quarterback Ty Reed found out once senior Kenny Frederickson got the interception early in the third quarter. The pattern repeated shortly after as a Panther pick-six drove up the score again.
Though defeat looked imminent in the fourth period, the Bulldogs didn’t let up.
Senior Anthony Jordan broke through for a sack to force a Panther punt, while the following MoCo drive stayed alive as Beaver zipped it to senior Aron Aguilar on the fourth and long fakeout.
Hafey made the touchdown catch from 32 yards afterward, and the Bulldogs nearly had another score moments later as Beaver took advantage of a Delta fumble to run it nearly 80 yards back — only for an illegal block to negate the touchdown.
As opposing teams saw the clock wind down, MoCo players accepted defeat graciously.
“It was rough dude, it really was,” said junior lineman Adam Delay. “Delta is the number one team in the state for a reason. We came out a little bit slow and lackadaisical, but we picked it up and played some good football. That’s all you can do.”
Delta’s win puts them in the 2A state championship game next week, where the top-seed Panthers will have a rematch with the No. 3 Rifle Bears, whom they defeated 28-7 earlier in the schedule.
Rifle’s semifinal game Saturday was a 24-15 win over the defending state champs, Eaton.
In their final huddle of the 9-3 season, Moffat County coaches impressed upon players that it had been one for the ages. In addition to the program’s first playoff win since 2006, the team’s entry into the semis was their first time since 1993.
Bulldog football’s only championship game took place in 1968.
Head coach Nick Colgate stated that while the 13 MCHS seniors saw their final game in the blue and white, they did so setting a standard.
“Our kids all year have fought to the end,” Colgate said. “Those seniors didn’t give up or surrender. That senior leadership puts a stamp on what we’re going to get from our younger program.”
For senior Edgar Hernandez, the final game hit hard figuratively and literally — he had his helmet popped off and the wind knocked out of him on a tackle after one of several receptions that day.
The former Bulldog soccer player who switched sports this year got emotional as the rest of the upperclassmen celebrated three or even four years on the roster.
“This was my first year and my last year on the team, and I loved my senior year,” Hernandez said. “I wish the rest bunch of them coming up good luck.”
Jimenez said there’s little he won’t miss about MCHS football from freshman year to now.
“I’m really going to miss all the connection we had through this. I’ll miss everything about it.”
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