Preparingfor the Panthers |

Preparingfor the Panthers

First-year coaches face off tonight in Craig

David Pressgrove

The paths of the two first-year football coaches in the Western Slope Conference meet tonight at Moffat County High School.

Looking back from the intersection, one path has been a little rockier.

Coach Tom Adair of the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers has taken, if not the road less traveled, certainly the road less desirable.

His team sits at 1-6 with remaining games against the WSC’s third-place team Moffat County, and first-place Rifle.

Adair inherited a young team to build that has taken its bumps and bruises this season.

“We haven’t had many gifts this year,” Adair said. “We are a work in progress.”

Coach Kip Hafey’s path, while maybe not easier, has been made smoother by his team’s ability to win. The 4-3 Bulldogs sit at 2-1 in the WSC and are still in the hunt for a trip to the playoffs. Hafey is quick to give credit to his staff and athletes: “We got a group of coaches that are all on the same path here and a bunch of kids that believe in our system and give everything they’ve got to make it successful.”

Earlier in the week, the coaches talked on the phone about their respective seasons and teams.

“Kip seems to have a good program in the works,” Adair said.

“He’s got kids and coaches believing in the system and things are looking up.”

“We talked about how it is a challenge to get things established,” Hafey said. “It will be interesting to see how both teams grow in the future.”

For right now, the teams are focusing on tonight.

“We can’t underestimate any opponent right now,” Hafey said. “Each game is our next obstacle in the way of the goals for the season.”

“Every time out we want to have our kids learn and get better,” Adair said. “Right now, we’re just trying to make sure they have fun and play hard.”

In preparation for the Panthers, Hafey said the Bulldogs have worked on the quickness of their offense and have fine-tuned the defense.

“They’ve got some size with a couple of kids over 6’6″,” he said. “So we’ll have to use our speed to get around them.”

Adair said the Bulldogs’ offensive scheme hasn’t been the easiest to prepare for: “They do all kinds of stuff, so we just have to be ready for everything.”

While the Panthers have struggled to win, coach Adair said they have had some positive results two of the last three games.

“Our defense played well against Glenwood, shutting them out the last three quarters,” he said.

“Our offense out-gained Steamboat in a loss, so we’ve been growing and learning.”

The Panthers left Thursday for the long trip up to their final regular season home game in Craig.

“The seniors have a special night ahead of them,” Hafey said. “I think they’ll leave a part of themselves on the field.”

The Bulldogs will be without senior running back Joe Padon for the second week in a row. Other than that, the team is relatively healthy.

“We’re ready to go,” Hafey said. “This is where it starts to matter.”

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or

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