Showdown for fourth |

Showdown for fourth

Last one standing keeps playoff chances alive

David Pressgrove

It is the biggest game of the season, and the Moffat County football team chose not to practice in full pads until Thursday’s practice.

“All year we’ve performed and recovered well physically,” coach Kip Hafey said. “It’s been the mental part that we’ve not recovered well. This week, we worked a lot on the mental aspect of the game.”

Don’t expect the Rifle Bears of the Bulldogs to come out lacking energy and focus tonight. With Palisade, Steamboat and Eagle Valley ahead of them, the Bulldogs and Bears are playing for the final playoff spot from the Western Slope League.

“This is the biggest game of the whole year so far, and we have to show up,” Moffat senior linebacker Korey Kostur said. “Everybody has to be tough.”

Both teams are coming off their worst losses of the season. The Bulldogs were shutout for the first time in four years with a 35-0 loss to Palisade. Rifle was run over by Class 2A Roaring Fork, 54-34.

Yet both coaches don’t see those losses as setbacks for this week.

“Palisade executed in key situations, and I don’t think that game was a 35-0 game, if you know what I mean,” Rifle’s first-year head coach Damon Wells said. “(Moffat) did a pretty good job of stuffing Palisade, whenever they absolutely had to. So, its not like Palisade ran up and down the field on Moffat County.”

Hafey said Rifle’s offensive output against the Rams spoke for itself.

“It has taken (Rifle) some time to get used to the new system,” he said. “They put up a lot of points against a good Roaring Fork team and it shows they’re starting to get comfortable with the offense.”

Now with the sweet nothings out of the way, it’s time for business.

“We can’t turn to the ball over,” Hafey said. “That’s it. Period. We’ve turned the ball over all year, and if we have a chance, it has to stop.”

Rifle is 3-2 in the league with their most impressive win a 7-6 defeat of Eagle Valley. It is the Devils’ only loss of the season. The Bulldogs, 3-3, have yet to beat a team with a record better than .500.

“A few of the things we learned (by watching the Palisade game) is that Moffat is not down,” Wells said. “Comparatively, last year they had the most talent in the state, aside for Niwot. So most anybody would be down compared against that. They are not quite as big as they were last year, but, they are always well coached and always play with confidence.”

Moffat has gained confidence against the Bears the past two years. After losing eight consecutive games to the Bears, the Bulldogs have a two-game winning streak.

“Rifle is a good program, and they know how to win,” Hafey said. “With their new offense they are a hard team to scout.”

The Bears come at teams on offense with mutliple formations and looks. They have moved the ball all year, but up until last week they had trouble finding the end zone.

Rifle’s defense has kept them in games this season. The Bears defense held Eagle Valley, Delta and Palisade to their lowest point totals of the season.

“It’s going to be a smash mouth football game,” Hafey said. “No lead is safe.”

Kickoff for the biggest game of the season for both teams is at 7 p.m.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.