Moffat County football’s win over Steamboat comes down to final minute
The annual face-off between the blue and red of the Yampa Valley is always a highlight of the season regardless of whether the two sides are in the same conference, and the Friday night showdown in Craig between Moffat County High School and Steamboat Springs did not disappoint.
MCHS took a 21-14 victory over their regional rivals in a showcase of skills that also happened to be the closest game between the two in years, one which was truly decided in the last 60 seconds.
Despite the Sailors jumping back into the 3A division after spending two seasons in the 2A Western Slope League, Steamboat has stuck to smaller teams in the non-conference portion of its season, including a zero week opener against 1A Manual that they won 24-12 followed by a loss in Cedaredge, 34-26 against the Bruins.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs came into the skirmish looking to keep the energy rolling their way after an Aug. 31 40-7 blowout at home against the Summit Tigers.
The Dogs’ flirtation with the mercy rule the week before was hardly the case this time as the Sailors were more than a match for them despite many obstacles.
Starting Steamboat quarterback Diego Effinger was taken out of commission quickly in the opening quarter, limping off the field with a knee injury, replaced by Drew Bowers.
“We’ve got a good two-quarterback system, so we knew Drew was ready to go,” said Steamboat coach Shawn Baumgartner.
Before Bowers took over, the Sailors already had a mishap by that point, as a fumble in the backfield was scooped up at the 45 by Moffat County’s Dagan White, who ran it all the way to the end zone less than four minutes into the game.
“I didn’t even know what was going on until I saw the ball on the ground. So I just picked it up and ran,” White said.
White would ultimately have three turnovers during the evening, including a fourth-quarter interception.
Steamboat seized on their turnover opportunity mere minutes later as MCHS quarterback Colby Beaver lost control of the ball, which was grabbed by Johnathon Kaminski, who dashed to the red zone.
The Sailors’ scoring position didn’t help as myriad holding calls kept them from a touchdown, while a 20-yard field goal attempt went wide.
Turnovers afflicted either side in the second quarter as Jameson Tracy snagged an interception for the Sailors, who promptly lost possession again as White grabbed another fumble. Once the Dogs got within one yard, Beaver snuck it in to give Moffat County the 14-0 lead at halftime.
Steamboat got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, as a good string of rushing put Bowers within five yards, and a few failed passes prompted him to scramble for the TD himself to make it 14-7.
MCHS answered back quickly with a rapid drive capped off by a 20-yard TD grab by Kameron Baker.
Baker’s first score of the season was one he was particularly pleased with given how it unfolded.
“That’s the first time Colby targeted me for deep like that,” he said. “I do both slot and tight end, but I can play it all.”
Bowers later whipped it to receiver Maxim Fullerton, who would make the biggest play of the game with a 65-yard sprint to the end zone.
Even with the advantage, the Bulldogs’ stomachs were in knots when the Sailors blocked a punt at midfield to take over with plenty of potential and only about one minute to play.
However, punter Kevin Hernandez responded by promptly sacking Bowers, who went down again at Logan Knez’s hands and then again by Hernandez to make it fourth down and a mile that the QB couldn’t make up with a quick draw play for a few yards.
All Beaver had to do was take a knee with the remaining six seconds as the MCHS student section chanted, “Warm up the bus!”
The last time a game between the two teams was decided by a single-digit difference was 2005 when the Sailors eked by with a 24-23 win.
Coaches were split on their reactions.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better game,” Baumgartner said. “That’s what this game is between Steamboat and Craig. Defensively, we played really well, and offensively in the second half we moved the ball well. We just need to be more consistent.”
On the other side of the field, while happy with the win, Moffat County coach Jamie Nelson was wary of how close the game was.
“A lot of our guys are not familiar with this kind of situation and such a tight game,” he said. “My observation without watching game film is there was a drop-off in intensity on both sides of the ball. Defensively it wasn’t bad, but offensively we’d do things right, then fall apart, miss a block, make eight yards, then lose two or three. We’ve gotta clean some of that stuff up.”
Beaver was picked off twice and threw eight for 13 attempts and 99 yards. Rushing was again led by Hernandez, whose 14 carries amounted to 94 yards, with Josh Teeter recording 28.
Cale Scranton rushed for eight yards and had 47 on three catches, including his 33-yard longest.
Despite never touching the ball on offense, White had 60 all-purpose yards for his two fumble recoveries.
Teeter led in tackles with nine solo and 12 total, as well as one sack and an interception, followed by Scranton with 11 tackles. Hernandez and Knez each had two QB bring-downs and Angel Rodriguez and Jared Baker one apiece.
As the season continues, 2-0 Moffat County hits the road Sept. 14 for the Dogs’ first away game, meeting the Battle Mountain Huskies in Edwards, while the same night Steamboat, 1-2, is scheduled to host the Middle Park Panthers of Granby, which they will do at the middle school field.
“It’ll just be good to be back on a Steamboat field,” Baumgartner laughed.
The 2-1 Huskies took their first loss Friday night in 47-6 defeat to MCHS’s fellow 2A WSL team, Basalt, which sent the Longhorns to 2-0. Rifle joins Moffat County and Basalt at the top of the league rankings, obliterating Grand Valley 49-0 Thursday.
Elsewhere, Coal Ridge got its first win, 45-7, against Hotchkiss on Friday, the same night Delta lost 28-22 in Salida. Rounding out the WSL action on Saturday, the 1-1 Aspen Skiers, fell 20-8 to the defending state champion Wolverines of Bayfield.
Now midway through the non-league schedule, Moffat County is focused on the two games ahead before worrying too much about the conference slate that kicks off with a Sept. 29 Homecoming game with Basalt.
Nelson said he expects a stronger week of practice to shine through when the Dogs meet Battle Mountain following a game that may have been odd but still had its benefits.
“What I feel good about is there were players who hadn’t made plays that were in there making plays tonight,” Nelson said. “When they all come together and play well, we’ll have a really good game.”
A blend of Northwest Colorado imagery and splashy colors now greets Craig drivers and pedestrians.