Moffat County football prepped for physical season | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County football prepped for physical season

Bulldogs seek to retain league title, return to playoffs

As the seasons change to autumn and the sun goes down earlier and earlier, locations across the country engage young men in competitions of guts and glory in America's favorite sport, and Craig is no different.

Simply put, the Bulldog Proving Grounds and its inhabitants will soon be back under the spell of Friday night lights.

Moffat County High SchoolMoffat County High School varsity football makes its grand return for a season coaches and players anticipate will be one of its best yet. varsity football makes its grand return for a season coaches and players anticipate will be one of its best yet.

Moffat County High School varsity football makes its grand return for a season coaches and players anticipate will be one of its best yet.

After two consecutive conference championships under the mantle of the briefly lived 2A Western Slope North League, the Dogs are prepared to maintain the same standards of excellence under the league's new-ish name, simply 2A Western Slope.

"Our Bulldogs, top to bottom, this is the most physically talented class of kids that I have ever seen," said Keith Gille, third-year MCHS head coach. "Speed-wise, strength-wise, I've never quite experienced anything like this anywhere I've been."

Recommended Stories For You

A roster of more than 50 includes offers plenty of returning seniors, including Hugo Hernandez, Keenan Hildebrandt, Taylor Johnson, Kobe Meagher, Isaac Montoya, DeVante Moore-Johnson, John T Peroulis, Angel Sanchez, Eddie Smercina and Ryan Zimmerman.

Hernandez, Hildebrandt, Smercina and junior Mikinzie Klimper each took home All-Conference honors last season amid a banner year of accomplishments that also included Smercina surpassing 1,000 yards as a running back and then-senior Stelios Peroulis receiving Player of the Year for WSNL as well as multiple All-State accolades.

Earning the right to host a playoff game for the first time in 11 years was no easy feat either.

However, there's no resting on the laurels of past success, as Gille is quick to point out to players. A sweep of the league schedule in 2015 is no guarantee for a repeat, with the league now featuring Coal Ridge, Basalt, Aspen and Roaring Fork, with Battle Mountain being replaced by 2A newcomer Steamboat Springs, the Sailors lined up as the Bulldogs' Homecoming opponent.

Leading up to that in non-conference events — which started Friday in Rawlins, Wyoming — are Ridge View Academy and Western Slope powerhouse Delta, followed by Resurrection Christian, a former 1A Front Range team that promises to shake up 2A football.

Backing up Gille on the coaching staff are Jeff Sullivan, Dave Summers, Jesse LaRose and Mason Updike.

"I'm really excited about our defense," Sullivan said, noting that players have their heads in the right place. "As long as these guys just play football, I think we'll be in good shape."

What Moffat County has going for it is a great deal of depth across the field, Gille said. Instead of one go-to quarterback, options are many with Hildebrandt and Montoya as play-runners, as well as sophomore Colby Beaver stepping up to varsity this year. The battle is on in the backfield among juniors Kaden Hafey, Nate Baker, Dominic Pascetti and Elias Peroulis to see who can step into the starting shoes of running backs like Brett Loyd and Shandon Hadley, who have since graduated.

On the line, Hernandez has all but clinched his spot after a standout season in 2015, while less experienced but still talented kids like juniors Marcus Delgado, Toryn Hume, Chace Marshall, Frankie Masterson, Zane Shipman, Tane Pierce and Braeden Barnes; sophomores Jared Atkin, Jared Baker, Bryson Davis, Cale Scranton and Josh Teeter; and freshmen Drake Doherty and Trevor Hume are among those the coach expects to show their abilities and consistently vie to be the first choice come varsity game time.

Players understand the demands of each position and can handle a change if necessary, Gille noted, and he won't be surprised if some adjustments occur over the season.

"It's a conglomeration of skill position kids nine to 11 deep," he said.

Especially encouraging has been the off-season time players have devoted to building up their bodies and endurance.

"I can't rip 'em out of that weight room," Gille laughed.

As the team moves toward a series of three straight home games in September, Gille hopes to impress on the city of Craig the importance of supporting the program in enhancing the lives of teens by giving them the chance to grow and shine through the sport of football.

"It's all about the kids," he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.