After defeating the Grand Valley Cardinals to close out the regular season, the Moffat County football team plans to bring the same level of skill to its next game against a team that may share the same mascot but will be more challenging.
MCHS is about to come out on top with Sunday’s announcement that the Bulldogs are ranked 12th in the state in Class 2A, tied with the fifth-seeded Elizabeth Cardinals.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season on Friday with a 42-14 victory over Grand Valley (2-7) that left Moffat County at 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the 2A Western Slope League.
Besides the unique atmosphere of the evening between a section of students dressed in Halloween costumes and the MCHS marching band retracing their halftime routines, emotions were high as the Bulldogs saluted 13 senior men – Aron Aguilar, Zeke Alcantar, Evan Beaver, Bryant Carlson, Wyatt Dade, Kenny Frederickson, Ian Hafey, Edgar Hernandez, Jimi Jimenez, Hudson Jones, Anthony Jordan, Ethan Schaaf and Caleb Squires.
For Alcantar, being joined by his family at the pre-game event was especially exciting because he was getting some playing time after sitting out most of the season injured. On Friday, he was on the field playing special teams and linebacker.
“I felt good when I was finally there playing with my brothers,” said Alcantar. “We continue to get better every week.”
MCHS took a 42-0 lead into halftime to force the running clock rule.
Quarterback Beaver wrapped up his regular season stats with 1,790 total yards, adding 170 against Grand Valley with touchdown passes to Hafey and Jones, and a 73-yarder to Carlson.
Hafey and Squires each ran for a touchdown, as did junior Zach Hedman, who led the night with 60 rushing yards, and the team gained a combined 182 yards on the ground.
With MCHS forcing turnovers, Carlson got a block and Schaaf and junior Clayton Vandersluis picked up fumbles. Schaaf also had a 12-yard gain on freshman QB Titus Frink’s first varsity completion.
“We came out firing with all the pistons, but we battled and never took our foot off the gas,” Schaaf said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better senior night.”
At 8-1, Elizabeth had a powerhouse season, but like the Bulldogs, they were denied a conference title. MCHS and Elizabeth were on the same team during a temporary realignment in 2020, when the current Bulldog seniors were freshmen, although the two teams have not faced each other since.
Moffat County will take on Elizabeth at 1pm on Saturday.
With MoCo football qualifying for the playoffs each fall since 2019, reaching that state was expected this year. Now the goal is to move forward.
The Bulldogs have regularly made the playoffs since becoming a 2A team in 2014, but each time they have been eliminated in the opening round.
Coaches emphasized that while losses to Resurrection Christian and Rifle have them lower in the rankings than they would have liked, the Dogs are more than ready to spoil what’s left of the top-seeded seasons and dominate the bracket.
“Our seniors talked a lot about getting a first-round win and being that team to make that happen,” coach Nick Colgate said. “‘Raise’ is the word we’ve chosen for this season, and that’s what we want to do is step up to be a real contender for the championship.”
Players are welcome. The seniors who have had the program year after year have seen their playoff hopes dashed over and over again, and they don’t plan on repeating that pattern. Dade has been a lineman since his sophomore year.
“I was able to go to the play-offs all these three years, and now I’m able to go again with the best people and the best coaches ever,” said Dade. “I believe that we played very well this year. We know what’s coming and how we can step it up a little bit.”
The love between players is stronger for the elders, who have been together for a long time and know that they can depend on each other.
“I’m proud of every last one of these guys,” Schaaf said. “They’ve been working hard all year and it shows in the game. We have the heart to do big things in the playoffs, and I’m excited to see what happens.”