Melinda Mawdsley: In search of greatness

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— High school football teams have the chance to consistently be good -- as in playoff good -- but the opportunity to be great -- as in state championship great -- doesn't come around often.

In the dorms at the University of Wyoming during summer team camp, the Moffat County football team decided this is the year they are going to be great, senior Scott Garoutte said.

"We have size," he said. "We have a running game, and we pass really well. We want it so bad we can taste it."

What does the hope of a state championship taste like?

For some of the Bulldogs, it tastes like waffles, eggs and biscuits and gravy. Those are several of the breakfast items junior quarterback Derek Duran has given his far-from-starved offensive line on game days as incentives to keep his jersey white, his arm healthy and the holes to run through large.

For many members of the Bulldogs, the hope of a state championship tastes like the spaghetti they eat as a team to carbohydrate load the night before every game -- as if Moffat County needed any extra energy in its players.

As a junior, it's tough to acknowledge that your senior year most likely will pale in comparison to the experiences you enjoyed as a junior, but Duran knows it's true.

This season, Moffat County is stacked with seniors driven by the disappointment of losing to Green River, Wyo., Steamboat Springs, Palisade and Florence last season. But mostly they are driven by each other.

"This is the year," Duran said. "We have the talent. In the summer, we knew we'd be tough."

Coach Kip Hafey is a lucky man. What he says goes. Every player and coach believes in him, and he reciprocates that trust. The Bulldogs didn't waste time thinking of a catchy motto to iron onto the back of a mass-produced football T-shirt during mini-camps. Instead, they got together and came up with something pretty simple.

"With us, it's trust and it's heart," Hafey said. "We are a family."

The phrases and the demeanor, and ultimately the scores, coming from the Bulldogs resemble last year's Steamboat squad, the one that caught a lot of breaks, converted a lot of third downs, and picked each other up after a score or a miscue. The team theme -- and a nearly unstoppable offense and late-season surge on defense -- carried the Sailors to the state semifinals.

Want to know what the hope of a state championship tastes like? Ask Steamboat. That team had the game booked on its field had it beaten Florence on a snowy day in November.

The Sailors, who dropped to 0-4 with a Friday loss to the Bulldogs, know just how fine the line is between good teams and great teams. There is no room for turnovers. No room for penalty-ridden games. In short, there is little room for mistakes. On Friday, the Bulldogs made some. They fumbled eight times, losing two. They let the underdog stay close. They gave the underdog hope, but in the second half, when it mattered most, Moffat County turned to Garoutte and Duran and an offensive line that averages 230 pounds a person and won the game, preserving the perfect record and avenging last season's loss.

"They came out last year and outplayed us," Duran said. "This year, we knew we were better."

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