Saturday playoff game in Brush is Moffat County football’s first in 8 years | CraigDailyPress.com

Saturday playoff game in Brush is Moffat County football’s first in 8 years

Moffat County High School senior and quarterback Matt Hamilton calls out Roaring Fork opponents before the snap during the Bulldogs' Oct. 24 game in Carbondale. MCHS will be playing in the first round of the 2A State Playoffs Saturday afternoon against the Brush High School Beetdiggers.

Bulldog pride could not be higher this weekend.

The Moffat County High School varsity football team takes on its biggest game to date this season when it meets with Brush High School on Saturday afternoon in its first appearance in the playoffs since 2006.

The road to the postseason

On the gridiron, things rarely stay exactly the same, but the Bulldogs have faced a great deal of change this year, some of which were expected far in advance, such as the move down from the 3A classification to the 2A and placement in the newly established Western Slope North League.

Before the season even began, Keith Gille was introduced as the new head coach for the program, weeks before the first game. Coming into a new position in a new town is something to which Gille still is growing accustomed to but one he's also grown to enjoy.

"It's only my 10th week here, but this school is an amazing place," he said.

During his three decades coaching football, Gille has headed teams of all sizes and maintains that the 2A field is one of the more competitive, especially for schools that straddle the line between 2A and 3A.

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"We've got the talent here for 2A or 3A. All we need to do is tap into it," Gille said.

All the adjustments were apparent in the team's opener, a 62-7 blowout in Rifle, and a 28-14 loss in Steamboat Springs the following week didn't do much to bolster players' confidence. However, the first home game had a positive result with a 27-12 win against Ridge View Academy, only to see the Bulldogs turn around and get shut out, 49-0, by Gunnison.

The team started to find its balance hosting Battle Mountain during homecoming, coming up with a 41-27 defeat to begin conference play, but taking on league opponents saw the best outcomes for Moffat County, downing Basalt (49-6), Coal Ridge (34-0) and Roaring Fork (58-30), with only a loss at Aspen (34-14) leaving the team 3-2 in the WSNL and 4-5 overall, the Skiers’ final week defeat translating to a push for the Bulldogs into the playoff round.

The opposition

When MCHS last reached the playoffs, it was as a 3A team eight years ago, falling 26-0 against Summit, a squad that had yet to see any losses at that point.

The seeding for the 2A playoffs put the Bulldogs in a similarly taxing place, scheduled to meet the undefeated Beetdiggers, ranked first in the division and 11th in the entire state. Brush, a small town east of Fort Morgan, has had a banner year at 9-0. The team consistently has been a playoffs contender for the past decade, even reaching the championship level in 2010, narrowly losing the 2A title to Olathe, 14-13.

This season, the squad has won games by as much as a margin of 55 points and as small as 6, winning out the 2A Patriot League.

Gille pointed to Brush's offensive line as a tough one, anchored by Joe Carwin and Tristan Teeter, with Michael Gutierrez and Kyle Rosenbrock proving big threats for the Beetdiggers' running game.

Rosenbrock is a multi-sport athlete, but he won't be the only player on the field who dabbles in five endeavors, a claim MCHS quarterback Matt Hamilton also can make this year.

"I've always said these kids only have four years to work with, so they should make the most of it," Gille said.

Hamilton has his name attached to a dozen touchdowns across the team's nine games, with nine passes to the end zone and three run in solo. Running backs Keenan Hildebrandt, Shandon Hadley and Brett Loyd follow with 10, seven and five touchdowns, respectively.

Kearn Gerber leads in scoring catches with five, while Joe Camilletti has scored two of these, and Connor Scranton and Eddie Smercina one apiece.

The Bulldogs have scored 230 total points and allowed 262 compared to Brush's 427 and 121, the Beetdiggers' lowest-scoring game still bringing them 34 points.

There's no denying it's an underdog scenario when you consider the statistics, but Gille sees the slate as having been wiped clean — all that counts is the games from here going forward.

"We're all on the same level now," he said.

A Moffat County win will not only move the team to the quarterfinals but also could secure a home game. The winner of MCHS/Brush will meet the victor of Nos. 8 and 9 in the brackets, Faith Christian and Bayfield.

The placement of this round could come down to a coin flip, but Gille is fine with that if it means playing for a Craig crowd.

"That would be so neat to see," he said, adding that he would love to see the enthusiasm that came with the Moffat County homecoming match, only ending in a win.

The future

One can't look at this year's Bulldog football without also acknowledging the achievements of its youngest players, the junior varsity finishing its season 6-2 on Monday after a 22-12 win against Roaring Fork. Underclassmen have had a huge impact on the field when suiting up for varsity, setting a high standard for their seasons to come.

Some, like Lane Gonzales and Chace Marshall, have been hindered by injuries fast, as have varsity players Brady Springer and Joe Selbach.

Freshman Elias Peroulis will be watching from the sidelines in Brush after twisting his ankle, as will sophomore Ryan Zimmerman, out with a concussion.

"I've still got three years left, so that'll be plenty," Elias said.

Elias's brother, Stelios, has been a disruptor of offenses all season as one of the Bulldogs' starting linebackers. Stelios will be one of many juniors who will hope to keep the team strong next season.

Zimmerman said "the taste of winning" will keep Moffat County football hungry for more throughout the off-season.

"We won't settle for anything less," he said.

As for the older bunch, Cory Summers is one of only four seniors — Hamilton, Camilletti, Keith Smith — who may be facing their final high school game this weekend.

"It's, like, all-time excitement," he said. "I'm glad to be a part of it."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

If you go

2014 2A State Playoffs, Round 1

1 p.m. Saturday

Brush High School, 400 West Ave.

The Moffat County High School varsity football team will play the Beetdiggers to start the postseason. The Bulldogs are 4-5 overall and seeded 16th. Brush is ranked No. 1 in the 2A division, and is 9-0. The game will be broadcast on KRAI 93.7 or on http://www.krai.com. Follow Craig Daily Press sports reporter Andy Bockelman on Twitter, @CDP_Sports, as he live-tweets the game.