Moffat County football plans to keep winning streak alive in league opener with Basalt | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County football plans to keep winning streak alive in league opener with Basalt

Moffat County High School coaches and players cheer on the Bulldog action against Pagosa Springs.
Andy Bockelman

They say it’s lonely at the top, but as far as the 2A Western Slope League rankings are concerned, all those involved will likely welcome the solitude, with at least one team guaranteed to drop after this weekend.

Moffat County High School football kicks off the beginning of the 2A WSL part of its season on the road Friday in Basalt.

The Bulldogs are one of only four teams in the 2A division who have gone undefeated so far. However, the 4-0 Dogs are among close company as all the unscathed teams are in the same conference, including Rifle and Delta, as well as the Longhorns they will face to start the schedule.

While Rifle, Delta and Basalt all frequent the CHSAA top 10 standings based on coach’s votes — first, second and seventh in the count, respectively — MoCo has remained lower in the tally, despite gaining more attention in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, statistical analysis in the Rankings Performance Index favors both Basalt and Moffat County, and the dual 4-0 squads are third and fourth based on win percentage, opponents’ wins and opponents’ opponents’ wins, with Delta eighth and Rifle 10th.

A breakdown of the early season for all 2A WSL teams follows.

Team — Record, Points For-Points Against; Date of game with MCHS, Home/Away

Moffat County — 4-0, 140-71

With wins against 3A schools Summit, Steamboat Springs and Battle Mountain, as well as 2A team Pagosa Springs, the Bulldogs are off to their best start in 14 years, with players right in the midst of the stat lists.

As the youngest starting quarterback among the six Western Slope teams, Ryan Peck is ranked third in total passing yardage at 512, and the most completions at 42.

Kevin Hernandez sits at second in rushing yards (443) on 99 carries, twice crossing triple digits on the ground as well as the longest single reception in the conference (73 yards). Dario Alexander is third in receiving yards at 194.

On defense, Dagan White is the lone player in the league to claim three interceptions in four games, while Joe Campagna is the WSL tackle leader (43) and tied for third in sacks with three QB takedowns.

The Bulldogs also lead the league in safeties, already earning three.

Moffat County’s 140-71 point count is a roughly 2:1 ratio in scoring thus far, and though only one game has seen them cross the goal line in the first quarter, the Dogs’ proficiency for second-half scoring has been a defining trait, including big comebacks against Battle Mountain and Pagosa.

“What they’ve demonstrated to us coaches and to our community is that they’re not gonna quit,” said MCHS head coach Jamie Nelson. “They believe in what they’re doing, they believe in themselves and they’ll keep playing until the final horn blows.”

Basalt — 4-0, 116-26; Oct. 4, Away

With two opponents in common with MoCo in the early season, the Longhorns went 28-0 against Battle Mountain and 39-19 over Pagosa Springs, wrapping up the non-league run by blanking Paonia 20-0.

Though they’re the lowest scoring of the 4-0 teams, Basalt’s numbers speak for themselves, with QB Matty Gillis just ahead of Peck in throwing yards (515) and Jackson Rappaport the league’s top receiver (294).

The Longhorns also lead the conference in total sacks, with 13.5 compared to 10 for the Dogs, showing Basalt is an undeniable threat to the Bulldog backfield.

“They’ve got a good system in place,” Nelson said of the upcoming opponents. “They graduated a few guys, but they’re playing sophomores and juniors with the seniors and still performing at a high level. They’re persistent. They’ve created a culture where they don’t quit, they’re a team that keeps playing hard.”

Even so, the morale is high heading into the latest meeting between the two teams, with MoCo looking to take out the purple powerhouse that’s beat them down the last three years.

“We’re kind of excited to go on the road, because they’re focused. Once we step on the bus, it’s a business trip,” Nelson said. “They’re going to play to win, every snap, every play, so we’ve got to be able to counter that.”

Aspen — 2-2, 110-85; Oct. 11, Home

MCHS’s first league game on home turf is also Homecoming, and Bulldogs will be playing for pride against a team that’s ranked fifth and has allowed the most points but are no less a threat.

The Skiers fell to Bayfield and Meeker early in the fall, but with starting quarterback Tyler Ward fully back in action by Week 3, their downhill slide quickly shifted.

Aspen has yet to post any stats on MaxPreps, though wins of 26-6 over Cedaredge and 44-0 against Grand Valley show the team still has the potential to return to the postseason with a good run through the conference, hosting Delta first.

Coal Ridge — 1-3, 63-78; Oct. 18, Home

The last home game of the regular season hopefully won’t be the final competition of the year on the Bulldog Proving Grounds, and it should be a favorable one for MoCo.

Coal Ridge finished in last place in the WSL in 2018, and the Titans were the only team in the conference to lose to the Bulldogs.

The 2019 schedule hasn’t gone much better for them. Aside from a 35-14 victory with Olathe, the Titans have suffered a string of defeats, including a 40-8 blowout loss in Meeker, a 7-6 head-shaker to Hotchkiss and a 17-14 drop to Paonia.

Though they’ve struggled to get much momentum on offense — despite No. 3 rusher Damian Spell on the heels of Hernandez — their defensive numbers are no joke, with five Titans in the top 10 for tackles, Jackson Wade only one hit behind Campagna.

Underdogs though they may be, Coal Ridge will still put up a fight against league foes, traveling to Rifle Friday.

Delta — 4-0, 202-0; Oct. 24, Away

One word sums up the Panthers’ early season: shutouts.

Going strictly by the scoreboard, Delta is the undisputed league success story, not allowing a single point in four straight games, scoring more than 40 points in every one.

Panther passer Nolan Bynum has 626 yards and 12 touchdown throws to lead the conference by a wide margin, while seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries on the other side of the ball show why the Delta defense hasn’t had to stay on the field too long.

Rifle — 4-0, 160-39; Nov. 1, Away

The Dogs’ season finale sees them take on the Bears on the road, hopefully on the way to the playoffs.

The biggest roster in the 2A WSL doesn’t hurt, but Rifle’s run game is its biggest strength as coaches have taken notice.

Rifle QB Holden Stutsman has gone only 10 for 19 in passing, but the Bears’ 2018 strategy of finding a reliable freight train has carried over again, with running back Levi Warfel’s 642 rushing yards and nine TDs keeping him well ahead of everyone in the conference.

Though they haven’t given any team a goose egg yet, Rifle’s perennial postseason potential continues as usual with their lowest scoring game 31-3 against Eagle Valley.