Wanting time on their side | CraigDailyPress.com

Wanting time on their side

Both coaches see value in the clock for quarterfinal matchup

More than 1,900 yards in passing versus almost 3,000 yards of running; four huge linebackers versus a huge offensive line, et cetera, et cetera.

The talk this week has been about the offensive numbers and the size of players on the Moffat County High School and Niwot football teams.

Ask both coaches, though, and they’ll tell you that they are focusing on a different number going into Saturday’s 1 p.m. quarterfinal matchup in the Class 3A football playoffs.

“We need to be close to Moffat in time of possession,” Niwot coach Ron Tesone said. “If we can’t stop the run and they control the clock, then we’re in trouble.”

“We need to keep the ball in our offense’s hands,” Moffat

County coach Kip Hafey said. “Eating up the clock will be to our advantage.”

So far this season the Cougars have been able to stop the run. Only one back, Silver Creek’s Tony Van Zant, rushed for more than 100 yards against Niwot this year.

But the Niwot defense hasn’t seen much of a running attack from their Tri-Valley League opponents.

“We had tons of exceptional quarterbacks this year,” Tesone said. “We didn’t see a lot of running this year.”

That’s an understatement.

The Tri-Valley league has the top five passing teams in Class 3A. The team with the most rushing yards in the league, Silver Creek, was 16th in 3A.

In contrast, the Boys in Blue didn’t see a lot of prolific passing teams this year. The Bulldogs led the Western Slope League in passing and are seventh in the state. The next-best WSL team was Steamboat Springs at 10th.

The Cougars have averaged more completions (10.5 a game) than what teams averaged in passing attempts against the Bulldogs this season (6.8 a game).

“We’ve worked on coverage all week,” Hafey said.

“We have to pressure the quarterback.”

Moffat County has spent more time practicing pass coverage this week than the Navy Seals practice swimming. That’s for two reasons. Niwot can pass and the pass defense numbers don’t look that great for the Bulldogs this year.

Only one of the five teams to pass for more than 100 yards didn’t score 20 or more points this season.

Tesone mentioned some numbers — such as Moffat’s ability to run the ball — but also he said he was impressed with what he saw on tape.

“We are preparing our kids for a very physical game,” he said. “Fort Morgan was the only team comparable in size we’ve played this year, but Moffat uses its size better. We’re getting ready to be pounded on physically.”

Tesone also isn’t looking forward to the 240-mile trip from Niwot to Craig.

“We do have to overcome the road trip,” Tesone said. “It’s a long trip that could be not a lot of fun with the weather.

“We also have to play in a hostile environment.”

Niwot moved down from Class 4A this year. In 2003, the Cougars went 5-5. This year, Niwot steamrolled opponents. The Cougars’ defense has allowed only 16 points in the first half all season.

Only one team held them to less than 30 points and only two teams scored more than twice on them.

“It’s gotta be exciting looking at this matchup,” Hafey said. “Our offense was one of the highest scoring in the state, and Niwot had the best defense. Then our defense and their offense were in the top five.”

The Denver Post described the game as “the Battle of the Titans,” suggesting that this is a championship-caliber game. From the way the coaches are talking, they agree.

“We’ve gotta have patience and perseverance,” Hafey said. “We also have to play tougher than we ever have.”

“I’m excited for the atmosphere of a quarterfinal playoff game in a small town that is behind its team,” Tesone said. “There’s going to be some intensity.”

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