Season opener a learning experience for Moffat County football
Following a season that saw the Bulldogs start off with seven straight victories, a loss in their first game was a hard dose of reality for Moffat County football, but it could serve to make the team tougher as they progress deeper into the 2022 schedule.
Moffat County fell 36-6 on Friday, Aug. 27, to the visiting Resurrection Christian Cougars. Both MoCo and Resurrection began the season ranked in the top 10 among CHSAA schools with MCHS in 2A after an 8-2 record in 2021 and the Cougars having just been bumped up to 3A.
Resurrection Christian has regularly been a tough opponent for the Bulldogs, who last faced the Cougars in the 2020 playoffs and fell 40-14.
The energy was similar on Friday as the Cougars’ first play after kickoff was a 70-yard sprint to set up a score. The game’s first touchdown and a successful two-point conversion came with just over two minutes off the clock.
“We knew when we put Res on the schedule that it’d be a tough game,” Bulldogs coach Lance Scranton said.
Though MoCo players were shuffled around significantly after lots of turnover from last season, Scranton said he isn’t concerned about his young roster.
“The guys we have are battle-tested; they played a lot of football last year,” he said.
MCHS held off another Resurrection score for the first quarter, but the Bulldogs suffered a big blow in the second quarter as senior Evan Atkin came out of the game with a shoulder injury. As the team’s leading running back, Atkin led all 11-man football teams in Colorado last season in touchdowns.
“We’re hoping he’ll be back soon, but it could be a couple weeks,” Scranton said of the injury.
Fellow seniors Kaden Hixson and Johnny Lopez and sophomore Aron Aguilar picked up the slack in the backfield, but the Dogs couldn’t get into the end zone in the first half.
The Cougars picked up two more TDs before halftime, with a silver lining coming for MCHS when senior Cort Murphy shut down a two-point conversion to keep it 22-0.
MoCo was down another starter early in the third quarter as Ian Hafey limped off the field with a high ankle sprain.
Senior Max Noland intercepted a pass to get the sidelines cheering, but Moffat gave possession back to Resurrection, which made the score 28-0 before the fourth.
A 39-yard breakaway run by Lopez late in the game got the Dogs in the red zone, and Murphy finalized the drive with a quarterback sneak on the goal line to get the Bulldogs on the scoreboard.
“We had some really good offense, and we were in the red zone five times, just couldn’t score,” Scranton said.
The Cougars chewed clock from there and picked up a final TD with five minutes left.
On the ground, MCHS recorded 210 total rushing yards, including 92 for Hixson, 55 for Lopez and 40 for Atkin before he left the field. With five completions on 11 passes, Murphy recorded 39 passing yards, the longest of which was a 15-yard pass to junior Hudson Jones.
Murphy had a better day defensively, leading the team in tackles with 11. Right behind him in hits with seven, junior Ethan Schaaf was on the field for the majority of the game, ready to step up as a lineman after mostly playing JV last year.
“Offensively, we held our blocks pretty well, I thought. It was just beating their secondary — they had a lot of big, fast boys,” he said. “We had guys who stepped up to the best of their abilities, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Up next, Moffat County will host Steamboat Springs at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1. Moffat has gotten the better of Steamboat recently with several consecutive wins over the Bulldogs’ regional rivals, and MoCo will look to keep the streak going with 2021’s 50-0 blowout sure to be a motivator for the Sailors.
Steamboat began its season with a 17-6 win over Coal Ridge, another 2A West team. Elsewhere in the league’s weekend games, Aspen fell 45-0 to Gunnison and Basalt rolled Eagle Valley 39-16, while the newest 2A West school Grand Valley announced their presence with a 53-8 win over Ellicott.
Though the Bulldogs weren’t thrilled about their defeat, they agree it will keep them humble going forward.
“It’s good to start off the season with a challenge like this. Now we can see where we’re at and get out there and improve,” Schaaf said.
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