Moffat County sinks Steamboat as rivalry streak stays strong |

Moffat County sinks Steamboat as rivalry streak stays strong

Moffat County senior Johnny Lopez, right, gets a crucial block from teammate Michael Voloshin as he heads toward his first of three touchdowns against Steamboat on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 in Craig.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

For the Moffat County seniors, there’s always a certain game on the schedule that means a little bit more.

The MCHS football team earned its first win of the fall Thursday night, Sept. 1, with a 33-20 victory over Steamboat Springs.

The Bulldogs’ annual faceoff with their U.S. Highway 40 rivals has been going the way of the blue and white since 2015, and the crew from Craig wasn’t about to stop the streak this year.

Moffat County got things rolling right away on their opening drive with persistent forward progress, leading to senior Johnny Lopez weaving his way to the end zone on a 28-yard carry, the longest of three touchdown rushes he’d have during the night.

Lopez, who also ran it in from 14 yards late in the first quarter and from 25 yards out in the second, said he was eager to prove himself a capable running back for the team with teammate Evan Atkin injured a week earlier.

“A lot of us have to step up and show that he’s not the whole team,” Lopez said.

With MoCo going with a ground-and-pound approach, Steamboat countered with a consistent air attack. Sailor quarterback Jesse Hamric connected with receiver Austin Moore for a 14-yard TD near the midpoint of the first period.

However, with the Bulldogs’ earlier PAT going wide, the score stayed tied at 6-6 as MCHS sophomore Aron Aguilar blocked the Sailors kick.

Once Lopez crossed the goal line again, turnovers weren’t helping either team, as MoCo junior Bryant Carlson picked off a deep pass by Hamric, only for a Bulldog fumble at midfield to start the second quarter.

Amid heavy coverage on fourth down, Steamboat’s Jay Phillips snagged the pigskin and scored on a 20-yard pass, with the scoreboard again even at 13-all.

MCHS senior Kaden Hixson looked to have a solid score on the following drive, only for a penalty to negate his TD, with Lopez scoring immediately afterward, with kicker Evan Beaver splitting the uprights again to make it 20-13 with 49 seconds left in the half.

Hamric was throwing deep in the hopes of going to the locker room tied up, but a Hail Mary just before the clock ran out was too well covered, with Lopez and fellow senior Max Noland both almost taking it the other direction, colliding in the defensive effort.

“I thought he was on the other team, so I went to swat it,” Lopez said. “He hit my hip and I hit his.”

Steamboat’s start to the second half wasn’t smooth sailing, with several incompletions leading to an interception by Beaver. Once the Bulldogs were on the edge of the red zone, Aguilar swept out from 20 yards, diving into the end zone for his first varsity TD.

A 50-yard catch-and-run by Sailor Brady Grove had Steamboat set up for success late in the third quarter, but Bulldogs Ethan Schaaf and Michael Voloshin combined for a sack to head into the final 12 minutes.

Steamboat nearly had another TD catch, this time by Cade Gedeon, yet an illegal procedure call brought it back, while a fumbled snap on fourth down gave it back to the Dogs.

MCHS coaches kept the clock running throughout the fourth quarter, with a lengthy drive finally capped off by a 2-yard quarterback sneak by Cort Murphy with six minutes remaining.

“We really came out in that second half and persevered through some injuries,” Murphy said.

The Sailors kept pushing with time against them, scoring a final TD on a 26-yard slant pass to Moore, but an onside kick attempt fell apart and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.

The 1-1 Dogs head out on the road in the coming weeks, playing the Bayfield Wolverines Sept. 10 and the Outlaws of Rawlins, Wyoming on Sept. 16, with a bye week leading into their Homecoming game against Rifle on Sept. 30.

With two games under his belt as starting QB, Murphy said he’s feeling comfortable in the leadership role. Before now, his most significant time under center came his freshman year in 2019 during a playoff game when he replaced an injured Ryan Peck, who spent the past three years as the first-stringer.

“It’s been an honor going after Ryan, learning from him, and now I’ve just got to step up and do the best I can,” Murphy said.

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