Moffat County football’s rematch with Rawlins provides bruising night for Bulldogs

Moffat County High School's Jared Atkin turns the corner on the way to the end zone during Bulldog football's season opener with Rawlins, Wyoming. MCHS fell 40-14 to the Outlaws.
Andy Bockelman
Moffat County High School varsity football vs. Rawlins, Wyoming Team — 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, 4Q — Final MCHS — 0, 0, 6, 8 — 14 Rawlins — 6, 8, 26, 0 — 40

It was late August 2016 when Moffat County High School varsity football had an 0-1 record to begin the season after facing off with a Wyoming team, and though the details weren’t duplicated exactly, getting off to a similar start will show how well the Bulldogs can make improvements in the weeks to come.

MCHS took a hard hit Friday night at the Bulldog Proving Grounds as a grudge match with Rawlins, Wyoming, dealt them a 40-14 defeat.

The Outlaws struck swiftly, and following an unsuccessful red zone attack on their first possession, got the ball right back as Brad Williams picked off Bulldog quarterback Colby Beaver. Williams ran it in from 10 on the next play to get Rawlins its first touchdown of the year.

A kick return by Cale Scranton got the Dogs as far as the Outlaws’ 39, but teams traded punts from there, and when it came time for Moffat County’s Greg Hixson to boot it again, a long snap went awry to give Rawlins prime field position, though Bulldogs caught a break when a potential 24-yard TD catch by Hunter Pixler was nullified by offensive pass interference.

Moffat County coach Keith Gille noted that Pixler caused some of the biggest problems for Bulldog defensive backs.

“We didn’t match up good with him, and I knew going in that he was a good athlete,” Gille said.

As the second quarter began, Outlaw QB Quentin Romero found Larenzo Ebell in the end zone with a six-yard slant with Damon Taylor picking up the two-point conversion.

Scoring slowed for the rest of the half as both sides doubled down on defense as the Bulldog line let little through. An abundance of penalties late in the quarter also hindered Rawlins, at one point facing third down and 40.

Though MCHS faced an uphill climb in the first half, the second was a roller coaster, and Miki Klimper and Jared Atkin were going full steam right out of the locker room, the former picking up 28 yards with a serpentine jaunt downfield after a screen pass and the latter turning a 17-yard end run to replace the goose egg on the board.

As Rawlins fought back, a Klimper fumble recovery at midfield looked like the tide was turning altogether, only for an enraged Outlaw defense to push their opponents back to fourth and 27. After the punt and a 30-yard grab by Pixler, it took little time for Rawlins’ Taylor to dash 26 yards for another touchdown to make it 20-8.

A special teams miscue on the subsequent kick return again put the ball in the Outlaws’ hands, and another catch by Ebell from 25 raised their score. Minutes later, Taylor gained another TD going up the gut at the goal line, and Ebell earned a pick-six at the 50-yard line as the game looked out of reach for the Dogs at 40-6.

Even so, the fourth quarter saw a burst of Bulldog defiance as rushing by Josh Teeter and Atkin got them moving, eventually converting a fourth down to get Moffat County out of its own territory.

Beaver — who threw a total 101 yards and 13 for 33 on the night — found Atkin and Scranton with short quick passes from there, and Atkin charged into the end zone from eight yards out, following with a two-pointer.

With more than eight minutes left, Rawlins committed to running down the clock rather than running up the score, and though MCHS offense kept at it, including a stint in the pocket by replacement QB Connor Murphy, progress was minimal.

“It was pretty up and down there in the third quarter, but then we got back on track,” said Rawlins coach Corey Wheeler. “We know we’ve got a good squad this year, we just need them to get to that level and believe in themselves.”

Gille credited the Rawlins roster with a game well played, as well as a bit of shock on his part that a summer of preparation didn’t have the Dogs where they needed to be.

“They out-physicaled us, out-hit us and outplayed us. We’re a better football team than we were tonight, and we have better athletes than I showcased tonight,” Gille said.

Atkin led in rushing with 48 yards, while Klimper and Scranton had 34 and 33 yards receiving, respectively. With 13 apiece, Klimper and Colby Beckett were just behind Teeter’s 14 in tackles on the night.

While the Outlaws meet fellow Wyoming team Evanston next, MCHS will travel to Watkins’ Ridge View Academy — smarting after a 32-6 loss to The Academy — for a Sept. 2 afternoon game.

“Ridge View is just as athletic as these kids, so we’ll really need to have a good week of practice to build our kids back up,” he said. “It’s a long way to go and a short time to get there, but looking at it realistically, it’s a non-league game, and we were 0-1 last year, just a little bit different game.”

Last year’s season opener between Moffat County and Rawlins also saw the Outlaws win, albeit clinching it very late in the game at 15-12.

“I don’t know if you get beat 40-14 or you lose it with 37 seconds left in the game, which hurts more, I don’t know, they all kind of hurt at my age,” Gille chuckled.

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