Moffat County High School sports to honor high-achieving student-athletes at Dude Dent ceremony
As the Moffat County High School Class of 2019 prepares to accept their diplomas later this month, a handful of them are also looking to take two of the school’s biggest sports honors.
A sports awards night for MCHS takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 at Quality Inn & Suites as the athletics department prepares to honor student-athletes who have excelled in physical and academic pursuits.
The evening includes the top awards of Outstanding Female Athlete and the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award.
The namesake of the plaque that will be given out is Lewis Dent, a local sports hero who graduated from Craig High School in 1939 after making a name for himself — and picking up a cool nickname — in multiple sports while also staying at the top of the class.
Dent’s specialty was football, named an All-State fullback, which led to a scholarship to Colorado State University, then known as Colorado A&M, where he lettered in football, basketball and track, according to research by MCHS teacher James Neton.
Among his most noteworthy accolades was a selection as Best All-Around Athlete for the Mountain States Conference in 1943.
Dude Dent was a mechanical engineering major and also participated in the Army reserves and ROTC before moving into overseas military service in World War II as part of the 94th Armored Artillery Battalion, eventually killed in action in France in August 1944.
The Denver Post’s Terry Frei has written numerous articles about Dent, including a mention about how the Craig athlete was posthumously honored for his war sacrifice as part of the Colorado Freedom Memorial in 2013.
The MCHS award was named for Dent and first handed out in 1957, with the accompanying Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year made part of the senior acknowledgements in 1977.
The list of nominees includes four girls up for Outstanding Female Athlete — Kinlie Brennise, Tiffany Hildebrandt, Bailey Lawton, Jaidyn Steele — and four guys on the short list for the Dude Dent trophy — Colby Beaver, Connor Etzler, Greg Hixson and Cale Scranton.
Beaver has been a team leader in his senior year as the starting quarterback of the Bulldog football program and one of the top performers for boys basketball.
Despite a rough season record on the gridiron, Beaver ranked third in the 2A Western Slope League in total passing yards with 1,224, throwing 14 touchdowns and crossing the goal line five times himself in a year when he greatly increased his output as a running QB from the previous year, ultimately gaining All-Conference Honorable Mention.
His energy continued into the wintertime for the hoops season, during which he was one of the Dogs’ biggest forces under the bucket, garnering recognition as the team’s Outstanding Defender.
He also led the team in total points and rebounds, once again getting an All-Conference distinction, as well as Academic All-State Honorable Mention.
Brennise is no stranger to competing at multiple levels of competition, and her senior year has been no exception. In fact, it’s still going.
Having signed earlier in 2019 with Weatherford College rodeo, Brennise’s spring session with Colorado State High School Rodeo Association has been a successful continuation of her excellent autumn, staying highly ranked in breakaway roping, pole bending, barrel racing and goat tying.
She’ll be looking to repeat as All-Around Cowgirl when the state finals come around in Craig Memorial Day weekend, ideally returning to nationals in multiple events.
The winter was just as productive for her as one of the Lady Bulldog basketball program’s best scorers, gaining All-Conference and Academic All-State awards. Plus, she represented Moffat County with one final game as part of Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports.
Out of all the nominees this year, Etzler had the most sports going on, including doing double duty in the fall with both football and golf. As one of the Bulldogs’ lowest shooters on the links, he shot a 95 at the regional tournament before turning his full attention to the pigskin.
As one of the team’s leading receivers with 144 yards on eight catches — half of which resulted in touchdowns — his highlight of the year came on the other side of the ball with an end zone pick against Delta he took back nearly the full length of the field, ending the fall as the league leader in interception return yardage at 103.
The story was the opposite come hoops season, as he couldn’t keep the rock to himself, leading the Bulldogs in assists, also taking Academic All-State, before moving on to spring track and field, specializing in triple jump and long jump, placing fifth in the latter at the Western Slope Multi-Leagues Meet.
Hildebrandt brought muscle into every aspect of her athletic performance this season, starting with volleyball. Besides gaining All-Conference Honorable Mention, she led her team in total kills, pounding 77 shots to the floor.
She was likewise a powerhouse on the b-ball court, ending the winter by picking up the team’s Armor Award for her aggressive style and the Rebound Award for her proficiency under the rim.
After winning a league title and a place at state in her junior year for the discus, she increased her likelihood for another trip to state with a win in April at the Clint Wells Invitational with a personal best throw of 110 feet.
After spending the entirety of football season recovering from summer surgery, though remaining an integral part of Bulldog practices, Hixson was prepared to come back strong for wrestling in the winter.
His plans to go all the way state — where he competed in his junior year — didn’t quite work out as a dislocated elbow during competition ended his grappling season all too early.
Even so, Hixson was back at it again in another sport once spring began, becoming one of the most versatile utility players for the baseball team. Besides being a reliable infielder — particularly at shortstop — and a consistent presence at the plate — with a knack for getting walked more than any of his teammates — he has been among the Bulldogs’ corps of pitching talent, contributing wherever he’s needed.
It should be no shock that a member of the MCHS dance team brought her nimbleness to other elements of physical activity.
Lawton was quick to dive for every opportunity to make a play during volleyball time, and though she was not the team’s leader in any individual category, her all-around abilities showed in her statistics for kills, service, aces, digs, blocks and assists.
Conversely, the springtime saw her serving in a singular role as Bulldog soccer’s goalkeeper. Though the team struggled defensively, it wasn’t for lack of effort from their goalie.
Lawton fiercely protected the box, never shying away from oncoming strikers and regularly knocking them to the ground as she pursued the ball, using her full body as much as her hands.
After being a reliable receiver for most of his high school career, Scranton took on a new job as a senior as a secondary quarterback to teammate Beaver. And, though his time in the pocket was far less frequent, he had the team’s longest touchdown pass for the season with a 78-yarder against Coal Ridge.
In addition to being among the top 10 tacklers in the league, he also finished the season ranked fifth in reception yards (462) with six TDs to earn All-Conference First Team.
Near the end of basketball season — during which he took Academic All-State honors — Scranton signed for Western Colorado University football in Gunnison.
Since then, he’s kept his speed up for college ball during the spring’s track season, placing seventh in long jump and part of a fourth-place 4×100-meter relay at the league meet.
With nerves of… well, steel, Steele proved to be one of Bulldog volleyball’s strongest net players in the fall. She and teammate Jenna Timmer combined to form wall after wall, 100 total blocks between them, each of them within the 3A Western Slope League’s top 10 for the stat.
At the line, she had the highest success percentage among the team’s regular servers (86.1%), and in kills, she trailed only Hildebrandt in terms of the heaviest hits.
In winter, Steele was again on the front lines, a persistent half-court defender for the girls basketball squad, time and again slowing opposing teams’ attempts on offense.
With her best numbers coming in defensive rebounds and steals in a year that took the Lady Dogs to the opening round of the postseason, Steele also gained Academic All-State to wrap her career.