Moffat County football seeks to blast Basalt, move toward Western Slope title
This time of year in Northwest Colorado, you can bet on two things sports-wise — Major League Baseball fans will have their Rocktober hopes dashed for another fall, and Moffat County High School varsity football will keep spectators on the edge of their seats for a bid into the postseason.
MCHS hosts its final regular season home game Friday, an event that will define whether or not they move along into November’s 2A playoff brackets while also determining the fate of the Western Slope League championship between the Bulldogs or visiting Basalt.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Bulldog Proving Grounds, and on the schedule is the program’s Senior Night with 11 upperclassmen the guests of honor, including Colby Beckett, Toryn Hume, Zane Shipman, Miki Klimper, Alex Nevarez, Marcus Delgado, Spencer Brown, Braeden Barnes, Dominic Pascetti, Nate Baker and manager Zoey Hammer.
A late-night Fifth Quarter dodgeball tournament by Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Bear River Young Life follows, but the action on the field will get hearts racing more than anything.
The Dogs seek to reclaim the WSL title from the Longhorns, who topped Moffat County 20-8 last year to sweep the conference.
Basalt is 6-1 so far, with their only loss 34-14 back in August to Rifle. Since then, their lowest scoring game was a 35-7 defeat of Delta. Most recently they got their top score of the year, going 54-14 over Coal Ridge for their third league victory, according to MaxPreps.
At 4-3 overall, MCHS is likewise 3-0 in WSL play, most recently completing a road trip in Steamboat Springs with a 41-13 scoreboard favoring the visitors.
The two foes bring different strengths to the table in their matchup.
Offensively, Basalt has the undeniable statistical advantage. With 1,760 total yards shared by the Longhorns’ backfield, nearly half of their rushing game has been carried by Noah Williams with 844 yards, leading the WSL in total points at 104 and 17 total touchdowns.
Nevarez and Pascetti have shouldered most of the Bulldogs’ 877-yard running game at 386 and 307, respectively, each with three TDs.
In receiving, Raul Torres has 456 yards from 25 catches, though Moffat County’s Klimper has a greater average of 20.1, 302 yards on only 15 grabs, neck and neck with Torres in total TD catches at four.
Quarterbacks Colby Beaver and Trevor Reuss post similar numbers, with Bulldog Beaver just barely ahead, throwing 767 yards — second in the league — to Reuss’s 760.
Both are above 50 percent in accuracy, though Reuss’s 49 for 95 gives him the edge there.
It’s defense where the Dogs outshine their upcoming opponents. Four of the top five WSL rankings in tackles are held by Moffat County players — Klimper (73 tackles), Beckett (65), Josh Teeter (45) and Nevarez (42) — with Torres leading the Longhorns at 46.
The Dogs also know how to dig in to opponents’ O-line, garnering a total 10 sacks so far, including three each for Klimper and Beckett, while Basalt has only two QB knockdowns to their name.
The game between the two teams will play into which of them heads into the second season, though the stakes are admittedly higher for Moffat County.
With a win, Basalt essentially cements its repeat as WSL champs forgoing an unlikely loss in its final game Oct. 27 against Roaring Fork, currently 0-7.
A victory for the Bulldogs puts them in good position for the title, but they’ll still need to move past Aspen on the road the following week in their final game, the 6-1 Skiers taking their only loss of the year to the Longhorns Oct. 6.
A solid early season for Basalt and Aspen could mean both have playoffs in front of them with the RPI rankings at ninth and 11th, while No. 25 Moffat County can only breathe easy if they finish the year 6-3.
A Bulldog win this week and loss in Aspen could thrust the league into a tiebreaker scenario, but one thing at a time.
MCHS head coach Keith Gille said his expectations are high for player performance. Whereas last year, several key players were done for the season with severe injuries by the time the Bulldogs faced Basalt and more still were playing through their war wounds, this season has seen far fewer injuries, and most athletes have been able to bounce back easily week after week.
“Does us being more healthy this year mean that we’re a better team? That I don’t know, and I guess we’ll find out Friday night,” Gille said.
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While the state of Colorado will receive much less in vaccines in the second major rollout than expected, Moffat County continues to roll along vaccinating community members with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.