Steamboat Springs In the past, Kellan Moore would have gone into halftime expecting his team to be chewed out by its coaches after a first-half performance that included six fumbles. That wasn't the case this year in Moffat County's 40-20 win over rival Steamboat Springs.
"Nobody got down on anybody, although we played poorly in the first half," the senior running back said. "The coaches were encouraging us to have fun, and nobody got on my back for fumbling."
The Bulldogs had a 20-13 lead at halftime, but the momentum was on the home team's side after sophomore quarterback Tanner Stillwell connected with senior Charlie Pappas at the 50-yard line. Pappas caught the ball off teammate Tyler Fosdick's chest and ran it into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown with 2 seconds left in the half.
"I have no idea where Charlie came from," Fosdick said.
Moffat County coach Kip Hafey said the bomb at the end of the half added to a frustrating half for his team.
"We had a lot of adversity to overcome after the first half," Hafey said. "Our guys came back and responded like we thought they could."
The Bulldogs lost possession of the ball two of the six times they fumbled in the first half.
Moore's fumble on his own 33-yard line gave the Sailors the ball and a short field with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first quarter. During the third play in the second quarter, Sailor senior Clay McKenzie punched it in from 2 yards to bring the score to 7-6. The extra point was no good and left the Bulldogs with a one-point lead.
Steamboat created its own adversity with eight penalties for 82 yards in the first half. A pass interference call kept one Bulldog scoring drive alive. A roughing-the-kicker penalty continued another scoring drive.
After the break, both teams went three-and-out, and the Bulldogs started their second possession of the third quarter on their 30-yard line. On third-and-five, junior quarterback Derek Duran found senior fullback Scott Garoutte open, and the senior rumbled for 25 yards. A personal foul from the Sailors tacked on another 15 yards. Two minutes later, Garoutte finished off the drive with a two-yard plunge.
The Sailors weren't done.
Steamboat drove the ball 73 yards in nine plays. The highlight of the drive was a 39-yard keeper to the 1-yard line on the option by Stillwell.
The score was 27-20 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. When the fourth quarter began, each Sailor held up four fingers with enthusiasm and emotion.
Because the Bulldogs had yet to be tested, outscoring their previous opponents 168-6, they stepped up to the challenge in the fourth quarter.
The difference in the final quarter was that the Bulldogs stopped making mistakes, while the Sailors continued to be called for penalties.
Steamboat was called for a facemask penalty and a personal foul during the Bulldogs' drive to start the fourth quarter. On third-and-nine from the Sailors' 35-yard line, Duran connected with junior Kevin Loughran for 11 yards to keep the drive alive. Moore opened up the game on a two-yard touchdown run with 7:15 left in the game.
"I really wanted to get it done in the second half," said Moore, who finished with 110 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. "I've got a great line in front of me, and I held onto the ball the second half."
The Bulldogs didn't fumble in the second half.
"We told them to go out and have fun in the second half," Hafey said. "They were too tense and making mistakes because of it the first half."
Things haven't been a lot of fun so for this season for the 0-4 Sailors.
"It's hard to come back after a loss and line up against a top-five team," Pappas said.
Duran put the final exclamation point on the Bulldogs' victory with a 37-yard bootleg touchdown run with 2:09 left.
The Bulldogs had talked about having balance on offense all season, but without much of a challenge before Friday, they didn't have to show it. Against Steamboat they showed their balance.
Garoutte finished with 62 yards on the ground, 55 yards receiving and a touchdown. Loughran finished with 17 yards on two receptions and a touchdown. Junior Daniel Cramblett had three receptions for 30 yards. Duran was 9-for-12 for 135 yards.
"This was a big win for us, but it was just one more of our season goals reached," Hafey said. "There's still a lot of football to be played."
The Sailors' tallied up 227 yards on offense, but the most notable numbers were from penalties. They had 17 flags on the field for 157 yards, including five personal fouls.
The 4-0 Bulldogs compiled 383 yards when they had the ball.
Next week, the Yampa Valley rivals both will celebrate homecoming. The Sailors will face an improved Montezuma Cortez team, and the Bulldogs will host Delta.