Turnovers prove tricky as Moffat County football takes playoff loss
COLORADO SPRINGS — On 4th and long with 20 seconds to go before halftime, Moffat County football had plenty of yardage to make up and little time to make something happen on Friday, Nov. 4, at The Classical Academy.
Bulldogs quarterback Evan Beaver found Evan Atkin at the 20-yard line with a Hail Mary pass, and Atkin didn’t hesitate to turn it into points, protecting the ball while thrashing and dragging two Titans all the way to the goal line. The sudden burst of razzle-dazzle bolstered the Bulldog sidelines as they headed into the locker room. Then the second half happened.
MoCo football ended its playoff run with a first-round 38-21 loss to The Classical Academy during a game that featured too many turnovers for the Dogs, who lost two fumbles and gave up three interceptions.
While the Moffat defense — ranked 13th in the Class 2A playoff bracket — repeatedly shut down their No. 4-seeded opponent, the Titans converted enough third and fourth downs to keep their offense going strong.
The Classical Academy held a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter before Atkin got the Bulldogs on the board with his longest rush of the season, 74 yards on a sweep. Once he realized no one was catching up to him, Atkin couldn’t help but hop into the end zone.
“I was just seeing how fast I could go, I guess. It was an awesome moment,” he said.
He scored his second TD on a 1-yard draw play after the big bomb from Beaver, which left the halftime score at 17-14, the closest the deficit would be.
However, The Classical Academy defense kicked into high gear after that. While the Titans offense never recorded a play longer than 21 yards, there was plenty of steady progress when they needed it.
The Dogs had a late push as senior Max Noland scored a TD on a 15-yard reception, but the ensuing onside kick attempt didn’t work, sealing their fate. The loss was a disappointment for the team, largely because this is the fourth consecutive year of qualifying for the postseason only to fall in the first round.
“We are accustomed to playoffs now as a program, but we need to challenge ourselves to take that next step,” coach Lance Scranton said.
The game showed promise for the future. Despite the two interceptions — Atkin also threw a pick at the very end of the night on a double pass — Beaver, a junior, put up his best total yardage yet. After replacing starting QB Cort Murphy midway through the fall, Beaver completed 15 of 28 passes for 231 yards.
Likewise, sophomore Zach Hedman earned a sack and nine tackles, though it was upperclassmen who were the biggest hitters of the night with 15 tackles for Atkin and 13 for Murphy.
Atkin added 93 rushing yards and 93 receiving yards, with the biggest pass of the night coming from Murphy, who connected with Kaden Hixson for 48 yards and had 103 passing yards in the game.
After being in the backfield early in the season, Hixson has been more of a receiver lately, nearly matching the season high in receiving yards that he set a few weeks ago against Coal Ridge.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could wherever the coaches put me,” he said. “It’s all about playing ball with the boys.”
Seniors were among the most choked-up once the game ended, though Atkin was more cheerful than anything as he addressed his teammates.
Part of it was relief of not ending the season like last year — ending a banner season with a playoff injury that took months to heal — but also just taking pride in the accomplishments of the 7-3 squad.
“I’ve been smiling a lot because it’s been a great season for us,” Atkin said. “I’m sure I’ll be more emotional later.”
The coaches also experienced a bittersweet moment knowing it was the last game for their seniors.
“We will really miss our senior leaders who have helped make our program so successful during the regular season,” Scranton said. “Super proud of the overall progress of our football program as a beacon of excellence and most importantly a place where we try to instill the values that help boys grow into young men who understand the importance of responsibility and accountability.”
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