Moffat County football stays undefeated in first road game as Bulldogs approach league
For the Craig Press
DENVER — The Bulldog Bulldozer just keeps mowing down opponents big and small, and the 2A West League is officially on alert.
MCHS players showed they’re just as comfortable on the road as they are in front of a home crowd, facing off Friday afternoon with the 3A Kennedy Commodores at Denver’s All-City Stadium.
The 51-15 win put the MoCo record at 4-0, in a game that was typical domination for the Craig crew.
A commanding lead
The Dogs were facing one of the most prolific passers in the state, with Kennedy junior Isaac Sisneros the first quarterback of the 3A division to surpass 1,000 yards in the first four games of the season.
However, the Bulldog defense that’s torn apart Northfield, Steamboat Springs and Rawlins teams was on point yet again and shut down the Commanders again and again.
In other phases of the game, MCHS was no less on fire, with a successful onside kick right at the opening recovered by senior Bulldog Kyle Hoag to give the group great field placement.
Redzone rushing by senior Taran Teeter and junior Evan Atkin gave the Dogs two touchdowns and a quick 14-0 advantage, though Sisneros connected with a receiver for more than 50 yards and the touchdown to close the first quarter at 14-7.
MCHS responded strongly in the second period, as Atkin broke through the Kennedy defense and evaded repeated tackles in yet another rushing score that amounted to more than half the field, in this case 55 yards.
As the Commanders attempted to get going again, repeated penalties kept them neutralized and set up Moffat County in their territory with a new drive, ending with Atkin somersaulting into the end zone again on a 3-yard draw.
The Dogs were back in the same spot soon after, as a bobbled pass by Kennedy went in the hands of MoCo junior Johnny Lopez, with senior Trace Frederickson gaining a 26-yard touchdown moments later.
Kennedy caught a break on the following kick return as Ron Gallegos III took it all the way back, while a successful two-point conversion gave Commanders their final score of the afternoon.
Ryan Peck got his throwing arm in motion from there with a 28-yard completion to senior Ethan Hafey to get into scoring position and a well-placed throw to Carson Miller getting another TD to make it 42-15 just before the break.
Peck ended the first half sacking Sisneros after a bad snap, though a deflected pass and subsequent interception on the second-half opening drive helped out Kennedy.
Still, MCHS defense, combined with Kennedy penalties, kept the Commanders out of the end zone.
The third quarter went scoreless, but early in the fourth, Bulldog coaches tried something new by putting linemen in the backfield, the result being a diving TD by sophomore Ian Hafey.
“That felt really great. I couldn’t have done that without great blocking from my teammates,” Ian Hafey said.
Ian also picked up two sacks early in the game, and though some calls against him on defense amounted to Kennedy yardage, he noted he wasn’t worried about it.
“That happens sometimes when you’re trying to run through them and grab them to take them down,” he said with a shrug.
As Moffat County got the ball right back, courtesy of the third Cort Murphy pickoff of the fall, the Bulldogs failed to score another offensive point. A late safety put them over the 50-point mark for the second time this season.
“They came out well, and they’ve got some fast kids, but they just had some discipline issues on their side of the ball,” MCHS head coach Lance Scranton said of Kennedy. “They probably could have put up a few more points on us, but they kept making mental errors.”
Atkin entered the game with Kennedy as the most productive running back of the 2A West with 389 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and both numbers only increased in their most recent game, with yet another century mark hitting 100 yards of rushing.
Peck’s yards per game average in terms of passing was already over 100, seeing an additional bump Friday.
Elsewhere, Ethan Hafey stands as the league leader in sacks, with six to date, as his brother starts to catch up to him.
A look at the league
MCHS will move on to the conference portion of their schedule in October, one which will likely be far more challenging than their start to the season.
At 4-0, the Bulldogs are in a similar situation to 2019, though they only have only one other undefeated team in front of them.
Still, coaches aren’t letting players expect anything but the best from future opponents.
“Being undefeated doesn’t mean anything once the next game starts,” Scranton said. “Our philosophy is to just be disciplined, be focus, and work the plan.”
Oct. 1 — at Basalt Longhorns
The Bulldogs’ first 2A West opponent may be the team who will be their biggest obstacle to a title. Basalt is the only other 4-0 team of the six schools in the league, and the Longhorns’ capability in getting victories has seen them atop the CHSAA RPI list, thanks to defeats against larger teams, a statistical boost the Bulldogs have experienced as well.
In terms of points, Basalt has only earned one shutout — 37-0 over Faith Christian — and went into double overtime in a 40-34 skirmish against Battle Mountain, adding to their 146-54-point tally heading into a bye week.
The Longhorns have a balanced offense, with over 500 yards of combined rushing in their first four outings, but QB Kade Schneider holds a big advantage in the league’s passing numbers with 650 yards, 10 TDs and only one interception.
As Schneider’s top receiver, Sam Sherry also leads the 2A West in total tackles with 46, proving the Longhorns are as heavy-hitting as ever.
MCHS last defeated Basalt in 2015 as part of the Dogs’ sweep of the league, but the following year saw the Longhorns’ turnaround take effect with back-to-back league championships in the then-2A Western Slope.
Even when not earning the conference crown, Basalt has been a playoff contender the past five seasons, making it as far as the 2A semifinals in 2019.
Oct. 8 — at Rifle Bears
After traveling to Basalt, MCHS will be in hostile territory again the following week.
However, Rifle does not have nearly the reputation this fall as they have in previous years.
After ending the highly reconfigured 2020-21 Season C schedule as the 3A state champions — a 35-34 thriller over The Classical Academy — the Bears took two defeats at the start of the season, not even scoring a touchdown in the 35-3 home opener with Palisade. They struggled again the next week against rival Glenwood Springs, losing 13-7.
Even so, Rifle went on the warpath from there as they rocked it on the road, forcing a halftime forfeit by Lincoln after being up 48-0. They also dispatched Faith Christian 42-10 at home to balance out their non-league record, a season scoreboard now at 100-58.
Toto Fletchall has been a dominant rusher, with 323 yards to date, and Trey Caldwell and Nicholas Saldivar have been close behind in stats. At quarterback, Trey Caldwell also has 385 passing yards, the majority of which have been on throws to brother Broc, with 160 receiving yards.
On defense, Trey Cladwell leads Rifle in tackles at a count of 19, and Justin Gill in sacks, with three.
While the Bears have regularly been league champs of both 3A and 2A leagues — as well as postseason entrants at both levels — throughout the past decade, Moffat County will perhaps appreciate a win over them this fall more than they would any other team, given the Bulldogs have not defeated Rifle since 2010.
Oct. 15 — Aspen Skiers
Moffat County comes back home to face Aspen, who look to improve from an inauspicious Season C, during which they went 3-4 and qualified for a small playoff bracket, before getting knocked out immediately with a 57-0 loss to The Classical Academy.
After a promising start in which they defeated Colorado Springs Christian 42-21, the Skiers fought it out against Summit and Battle Mountain, losing 37-20 and 43-34, respectively.
Unlike the rest of the league, the Skiers coaching staff has yet to post any statistics on MaxPreps.
In relation to Moffat County, Aspen has seen both triumphs and defeats ever since the Bulldogs dropped to 2A in 2014. The Skiers have been on the better side of the record, going 4-2 since then, with the last MCHS win against them in 2016.
The two teams did not face off in the past season, but the Dogs will look to avenge a 2019 Homecoming loss as Aspen returns to Craig.
Oct. 22 — at Delta Panthers
The Bulldogs’ final away game of the regular season is down in Delta.
Delta remains a formidable foe even without a pristine non-league record. In spite of a 28-10 stunner loss to Palisade in Week 3, the Panthers have beaten up on every other team they’ve played, with wins against Summit (27-0), Salida (49-0), and Montezuma-Cortez (49-8).
Delta has not one but two reliable quarterbacks in Ty Reed and Nathan Schanhorst, but a ground game that’s tabulated nearly 800 rushing yards is led by Timothy Horn’s 385, complete with four TDs.
It’s their defense that is truly threatening; the Panthers have already earned 10 interceptions and forced four fumbles — with four turnovers resulting in immediate scores — and notched 11 combined sacks, four of which were credited to Easton Baier. In total tackles, Hunter Goff leads the squad with 39.
Like Rifle, Delta has routinely exasperated the rest of the league since going down to the 2A classification — including finishing as the state runner-up in 2019 — but the Panthers’ plans for a league title in 2020 were foiled by none other than Moffat County, the only other team in the 2A Western Slope League to play in Season A.
The grudge match will no doubt be another key one to watch for MCHS fans.
Oct. 29 — Coal Ridge Titans
The Titans caught a break earlier this year with a 3-3 record in Season C, but this fall has been less kind.
Defeats to Grand Valley (34-7), Cedaredge (20-0) and Steamboat (24-6) led up to a meeting with 1A powerhouse Limon.
In their first three games, Coal Ridge’s offense has been built around running the ball far more than passing. Though they’ve been limited in crossing the goal line, both Jon Bolitho and Brandon Short have earned triple-digit honors in one game apiece as part of 397 total rushing yards for the team.
Starting QB Ryder Powell has put together 153 yards in the air while giving up four interceptions across three games.
Bolitho is likewise the squad’s most frequent hitter with 24 tackles, with Angelo Perea earning the group’s only sack.
The match-up that will serve as Moffat County’s Senior Night — and potentially a gateway into the playoffs — will be the seventh occasion the Bulldogs’ football program has met the Titans. Since moving to 2A, MCHS have yet to fall to Coal Ridge, with narrow and wide victories alike.
MCHS seniors Teeter and Myles Simpson expect big things ahead of them with a squad firing on all cylinders.
“It feels good to be part of such an athletic team,” Teeter said. “Our line has been able to get so much pressure and penetration.”
Simpson, who joined the program as a junior, has been impressed with his teammates’ performance. He noted that Kennedy was much more of a test heading into the league schedule.
“It’s good to play people like this before Basalt, we can see what we can do,” he said.
Fellow upperclassman Miller said he’s focused on the schedule still to come.
“I just wanna do my job and win with my brothers,” he said.
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