Taking to the air | CraigDailyPress.com

Taking to the air

Football team hopes new approach will bring same results

David Pressgrove

When a coach makes statements such as, “We’re not as big, but we’ve got a lot of heart,” and “It’s not a rebuildi ng, it’s a reloading year,” it sounds as if they are trying their best to put a positive spin on a season with questions.

Moffat County head coach Kip Hafey uses those terms, but he’s not trying to cover up any questions. He truly believes that although his team is nowhere near as big or experienced as last year’s 10-2 state quarterfinal team, they are reloaded for another run at a state title.

“Coaches can look at our team and see that we graduated a very good senior class and think we’ll be down this year,” he said. “But with the fight and determination this senior class has, I think they’ll learn differently.”

The state football polls are taking Hafey’s word for it. The Rocky Mountain News has the Bulldogs ranked fifth, the Denver Post and Coloradopreps.com have them seventh in Class 3A.

“Our program has the respect from the last three years,” senior Derek Duran said. “They know we’re going to be tough no matter who comes back.”

Duran took over quarterback duties his sophomore year and is 19-5 as a starter. When he was a freshman, he was touted as one of the best the coaches had seen. He’s a large part of why the coaching staff changed the look on offense a bit this year.

“Derek is a true leader and quarterback,” Hafey said. “We looked at our speed and his ability to throw and run and decided we needed to open it up a bit more.”

Last year, the Bulldogs passed about 25 percent of the time. Hafey predicts it will be closer to a 50/50 mix this year.

Duran is excited with what he’s seen this year.

“People are going to say stuff about how we’re not as big, but our speed really makes the difference,” he said. “We’re going to be dangerous on offense.”

The Bulldogs scrimmaged several Class 3A Metro League teams last weekend. One of those teams was Centaurus, which is ranked no lower than third in preseason polls.

“We stopped Centaurus on defense six straight times,” said senior Kevin Loughran. “That showed us that we’ve got what it takes.”

Duran agreed.

“We played several teams that had more size than us,” he said. “We stopped any team that tried to pound the ball.”

The Bulldogs are bolstered by a group of 18 seniors that Hafey says “could care less who gets the credit as long as it helps the team.”

The coach’s best example for that mindset is senior Peter Bacich. The former wideout/flanker has moved onto the line because of several injuries.

“Peter volunteered to make the move and a lineman isn’t going to get the credit that a flanker, who is catching passes, will,” he said. “But Peter said he’d do what was best for the team.”

While the senior class provides the bulk of starters only Duran, Loughran and linebacker Korey Kostur started on varsity last year. There are almost as many returning juniors, linemen Blake Kawcak and Cory Pike, who started.

“These seniors are the epitome of hard work and determination,” Hafey said. “They believe in themselves and it tends to help them overachieve.”

Senior Daniel Cramblett, jun–ior Andrew Drake and sophomore J.T. Haddan are replacing a senior backfield that rushed for more than 3,000 yards last year. All three represent different kinds of threats. Cramblett sits behind blocks and finds yardage through the smallest holes. Drake, who ran a 4.4 40-year dash this summer can get outside. Haddan is the power back.

Seniors Cass Thompson, Reid Hanneman and Chance Buckner as well as Loughran will be Dur–an’s primary targets.

On defense, the plans are to run a 5-3 and a 4-4. Seniors Jake Bilodeau (D-line) and Ricky Willis (linebacker) aren’t names that were called last year, but they will have an effect if the defense is successful.

This year’s schedule is the same as last year’s, but home and away games are opposite from the 2004 schedule, allowing different home-field advantages. That means rivals Steamboat and Rifle will be here while Palisade is on the road.

Palisade has been picked as the team to beat once again in the Western Slope League. Palisade returns a majority of starters from its undefeated league team last year. The WSL has produced the state champion two of the past three years.

Hafey hopes this year is the year the other Bulldogs end the season on top.

“Our goal is to win the league and then state,” Hafey said. “We have a different look but the results can be just as good.”

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