Moffat County football back in business |

Moffat County football back in business

League play gets going after pause

Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press
Moffat County High School football players shut down Meeker opponents on fourth down. MCHS travels to Elizabeth this weekend to start league play.
Andy Bockelman / for Craig Press

In a season that has been full of surprises, Moffat County High School football will be back on the road this week after a bump in the schedule that has had both pros and cons for the Bulldog bunch.

MCHS officially kicks off its 2A West League slate this weekend, traveling to Elizabeth for a Saturday matchup.

The game comes a week after what was originally meant to be the start of the league run as well as the Dogs’ home opener. Plans for the big night were scuttled when the Englewood Pirates announced they were under quarantine for COVID-19 and could not set sail for Craig.

The cancellation was the second straight week such an incident has happened to Bulldogs’ planned opponents, with the blue and white originally set to travel to Manitou Springs in early October, only for the Mustangs to call it off due to quarantine. Instead, rather serendipitously, MCHS wound up competing in Meeker, thanks to the Cowboys being in a similar situation.

Head coach Lance Scranton noted that organizers put out feelers and contacted two teams that also were facing a gap in the schedule for Oct. 16 — even offering to travel instead of host — but both declined due to the time crunch.

In any other year, the cancellation by the Pirates — who will ostensibly begin league play as normal after their quarantine period is complete — might have given the Dogs a win by forfeit, though the guidelines by Colorado High School Activities Association simply takes the match off the calendar.

“According to CHSAA, they’re just calling it a no-contest because they don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the rest of the season. This could be something that reoccurs, but we’re obviously hoping it doesn’t,” he said. “We’re in the middle of something that’s totally uncharted, so we have to do what we can.”

Moffat County’s start to the season was a strong one against Meeker, trailing the Cowboys 20-14 at halftime. A one-score game quickly went off the rails, though, and while neither side scored in the fourth quarter, dual Meeker touchdowns after the break sealed the deal.

“I’d much rather play a team that’s challenging and exposes the things we can get better at than a team that makes us overconfident,” he said.

Ultimately, the first two weeks have been a mixed bag, Scranton said. With stronger competition than they expected, the Dogs certainly benefited from a high-quality opponent while coaches got a glimpse of where they can improve.

“We’ve got to stay away from turnovers and convert on third downs, and on the other side of the ball get off the field on third down and make it a fourth instead of letting them get a first,” he said. “If we play one more quarter better than we did in Meeker, we’ve got a different game.”

No game against Englewood also meant for more practice time, though the extra preparation can only help so much.

“The kids are antsy, they just want to play,” Scranton said. “If we’d had the game against Englewood, it would’ve told us more. From your first game to your second game is where you make some pretty big improvements since the kids are shaking off the cobwebs and really getting ready.”

Final game analysis from the match-up with the Cowboys showed quarterback Ryan Peck with 107 passing yards and a 50-percent completion rate, able to target teammates Caleb Frink, Brian Gonzales, Blake Juergens, Ethan Hafey and Donnie Quick. Frink, who scored both Bulldog TDs against Meeker, had the lion’s share of rushing yardage with nearly 100 on the ground, as well as more than 40 yards in kick and punt returns, plus 36 from an early interception.

The Bulldog defense shone with 70 total tackles, 15 of which involved linebacker Joe Campagna, while Hafey and Taran Teeter were close behind in hits. The MoCo D was well-recognized last season, with Campagna and linemen Daniel Cruz and Corey Scranton earning All-Conference First Team, while Teeter, Logan Hafey, and 2020 Dude Dent winner Dagan White each picked up Honorable Mention.

Even with only one game under their belts, MCHS players represent well in current league statistics, though numbers on MaxPreps are incomplete, with nothing entered for Elizabeth, a team which Bulldog coaches have seen less of than they’d like in terms of game film.

“You can only get game film a week out, so we’ve only gotten one from them so far,” Scranton said. “They only have one from us too, so it evens out in the end.”

He added it’s a “gentleman’s agreement” to not expect opponents to give more than they get in return.

“It’s just nice to have as much information as possible, especially for a team you don’t know much about in a conference that you’re not used to playing,” he said.

The Cardinals — by far the easternmost school within the newly configured conference — stand at 0-2 this year, facing a rough start to October after an agreeable previous season.

Elizabeth claimed a 6-4 record in 2019, finishing third in the 2A Tri-Peaks League and earning a playoff berth in which they fell 8-0 to Faith Christian in the opening round.

The team faced former league rival Lamar Oct. 2 to start this fall, downed 41-20 by the Savages. Their second game was even more trying as they took on West League foe Woodland Park, who shut out the Cardinals 34-0.

Though there are minimal stats available on MaxPreps, details from their first two games show the Elizabeth defense allowed 277 rushing yards and 175 receiving, while the Cardinal offense suffered five interceptions and three sacks by Lamar. Woodland Park racked up 219 passing yards and 204 on the turf, plus two picks.

Still, Elizabeth has averaged two interceptions per game and recovered three fumbles, so they have put up a fight each time.

Besides the immediate game this weekend, the details also give the Dogs an idea of what they’ll be facing in the coming weeks.

“It’s always a good measuring stick to know what your upcoming opponent is like, looking from that perspective,” Scranton said.

Moffat County High School students gather with signage after Bulldog football’s game in Meeker.
Andy Bockelman / for Craig Press

Following the Elizabeth game, Moffat County is scheduled to be at home for the following two weeks, bringing Woodland Park to the Bulldog Proving Grounds Oct. 30, which will serve as MoCo Homecoming. Nov. 6, the squad will host its Senior Night before duking it out with Delta.

The end of the regular season takes place Nov. 14 against Middle Park in Granby, capping off three consecutive weeks against teams named the Panthers.

All games are tenuous based on pandemic conditions, Scranton said, adding there’s still no certainty for any school in the state.

“It’s sort of a week-to-week thing. That’s why it’s so difficult this year,” he said. “There’s not much we can do now except look forward to Elizabeth, travel down there, have a good game, get a win and go to 1-1 and take it from there.”

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