Moffat County football stays undefeated vs. Pagosa Springs | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County football stays undefeated vs. Pagosa Springs

Moffat County High School defenders swarm Pagosa Springs' Paden Bailey as the Bulldogs hold the lead Saturday afternoon.
Andy Bockelman

Sweaty, bruised and exhausted were among the conditions every Moffat County High School football player had to be feeling by the end of Saturday afternoon at the Bulldog Proving Grounds.

But, another adjective was even more prominent.

Victorious.

MCHS finished up its early season undefeated with a 21-16 win against the Pagosa Springs Pirates.

The move to 4-0 was not an easy one, with the weekend heat beating down compared to the brisk atmosphere of Friday night lights, taking its toll on both the hosting team and their visitors, whose trek to Northwest Colorado amounted to about seven hours of driving.

For that matter, it was the Bulldogs’ lowest-scoring game so far this season, with each touchdown in the red zone, fighting every step of the way.

With nearly 40 carries in a day that was all about the ground game, Kevin Hernandez ran it in for the first TD in the second period — after a scoreless first quarter — from 10 yards out as part of his 152-yard day.

Hernandez was taking direct snaps for much of the day as MoCo coaches kept switching up the format on offense.

“We just wanted something new to take advantage of what we’ve got to work with,” head coach Jamie Nelson said.

Still, Pagosa made the second quarter their own with a dominating rush that allowed them to progress to 14-7 by the break.

It wasn’t the first time this year the Dogs were coming out of the locker room needing to overcome a deficit, and the MCHS roster showed why it’s best not to provoke them.

A fourth down shutdown of the Pirates in their own territory boosted Bulldog spirits enough for them to get their longest run of the match, with Joe Campagna sweeping out for 22 yards, just short of the goal line.

With about a yard to go, quarterback Ryan Peck tried to dive for the touchdown that would tie up the tally, but the Pirate blockade wasn’t having it.

The next down, he took the opposite route, stretching the pigskin up and over the scrum of players at the line of scrimmage, enough to get six points, knocking in the PAT after that.

As Pagosa Springs got charged up again, Dagan White doused their hopes with his third interception of the year midway through the third quarter, with Hernandez grinding his way into the Pirate defense for small but significant gains again and again before the Dogs were back in scoring position to start the fourth period.

A fourth-and-inches scenario was one that put the pressure on Pagosa, and though they fought Hernandez all the way to the ground, he wiggled through their effort just enough to make what would be the game-winning TD.

The subsequent Pirate drive was a fast and furious one, starting with penalties that pushed them all the way to their own 10-yard line, but one well-placed pass from Grant Aucoin to Mitch Lewis let them gain some momentum from the 50.

In no time, Pirates were setting up to score, within six yards of the MoCo end zone, but even as they pushed, the Dogs pushed back — a fourth down go by Pagosa’s go-to rusher Paden Bailey was stopped centimeters from the white paint of the goal line.

The successful stop still put Moffat County in a precarious position as Peck took the snap in his own end zone. As Pirates swarmed him, a shovel pass to Hernandez was a futile effort as he was shoved backward for a safety with four minutes left.

Pagosa got the ball back from there only to loose it in no time, as an errant lateral resulted in a fumble and a Bulldog recovery.

Bulldogs played it smart from there as the clock wound down enough to hand them the win.

With a persistent wind throughout the day, Peck’s passing effort was limited, hitting six of 15 throws for 37 yards, 22 for Dario Alexander nine for Donnie Quick and six for Kameron Baker.

Still, the Dogs were able to capitalize on the breeze in other ways, including a punt by Hernandez that carried for far longer than it might have otherwise.

“We had to kick into it and kick with it, you just have to go with whatever happens,” Nelson said.

Campagna — who rushed for 31 — again led the charge in tackles, 11 total, eight solo, closely followed with nine for Taran Teeter and nine each for Logan Hafey and Quick.

In a day where turnovers were key, Ethan Hafey and Teeter each had a fumble recovery, with Corey Scranton and Joey Winters credited with the causes.

Nelson noted that everyone who set foot on the field has been making a “champion caliber” effort regardless of the final score.

“They’re all working, they want to grow and get better, they understand it,” Nelson said.

This is the first time since 2005 that the Bulldogs have started 4-0, one of four teams in the 2A Western Slope League that remain undefeated.

MoCo will face one of those teams, Basalt, on the road Oct. 4 to commence the conference schedule.

For seniors, the game against the Longhorns will be a momentous one, as Baker told his teammates in the post-game huddle, noting that Basalt has been one of the most intimidating squads year his whole time on the team.

“Ever since I was a freshman, we’ve been scared every year, but this time I see a team that can beat Basalt. Now that’s something special,” he said.