Rams come up just short against Bulldogs
Kicking off 2A Western Slope League action Friday in Carbondale, the Roaring Fork Rams football team put on a display of offensive explosion but ultimately came up just short in an entertaining back-and-forth 36-33 battle with the Moffat County Bulldogs on Homecoming at Carbondale Middle School.
With standout senior quarterback Hayden Bernot returning to the lineup to team up with fellow seniors Aldo Pinela, Alex Dominguez and Jake Kelley, the Rams were able to pull off some serious splash plays through the air against a big, physical Moffat County team, giving the Roaring Fork faithful hope of a win on Homecoming.
But that hope would run out late in the fourth quarter as the Rams drove down the field into Bulldog territory looking to tie, or take the lead before a turnover on downs sealed their fate. The tough loss drops the Rams to 0-5 on the year, including 0-1 in league play.
“The kids are bummed,” Roaring Fork Head Coach Jeff Kelley said. “When you haven’t won a game, it’s hard. They’re craving a win. They’ve had what I call fear in their eyes the first four weeks, and tonight they got rid of fear and felt they could win. They just didn’t do it tonight.”
Early on it looked like it could be a long night for the Rams as the Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and marched down the field behind senior quarterback Keenan Hildebrandt’s arm and legs. The Bulldogs got to the Roaring Fork 19-yard line, where they elected to go for it on 4th and 3, but a fumbled exchange between Moffat center Devon Moseman and Hildebrandt resulted in a turnover on downs by the Bulldogs, setting the Rams up at their own 20-yard line to start the game offensively.
From their own 20, the Rams reached into the bag of tricks and pulled out a double pass from Bernot to Dominguez, who uncorked a perfect pass down the field to Pinela, who was well behind the Moffat secondary for an 80-yard touchdown on the first offensive play from scrimmage to give Roaring Fork an early 7-0 lead.
“That one was planned,” Kelley said. “We knew we wanted to start with the double pass, and it worked. Coach Holley put that in and it was awesome.”
Holding a 7-0 lead, the Rams stood tall on defense forcing a Moffat three-and-out, giving the ball back to the high-powered offense. This time, the Rams turned to Pinela on the ground as the senior picked up 9 and 33 yards on two carries before drawing a face mask penalty on his third run, putting the Rams in the red zone. But two plays later the Rams coughed it up at the Moffat 5-yard line, ending any shot at going up 14-0 quickly.
With the score still standing at 7-0 after 12 minutes of play, the two teams continued to trade possessions before Moffat finally put together another good drive. Hildebrandt hooked up with Mikinzie Klimper for a 44-yard catch-and-run to set up Dominic Pasetti’s 5-yard plunge to get Moffat on the board. The Bulldogs went for two but failed to convert, keeping Roaring Fork in the lead at 7-6.
Looking to answer with a score of their own, Roaring Fork was set to receive the ensuing kickoff, but senior Eli Garcia fumbled it away in a scrum, giving Moffat the ball back on offense deep inside Roaring Fork territory. Six plays later Hildebrandt found Cale Scranton from 7 yards out to give Moffat a 14-7 lead following a successful 2-point conversion.
Moffat nearly added another score right before the half as Hildebrant found Kaden Hafey out of the backfield for the long score, but a block in the back on the Bulldogs negated the touchdown, sending the two teams into the half with Moffat leading 14-7.
Then, in the second half that when things really started to click for Roaring Fork.
Seven plays into the second half Bernot found a streaking Dominguez behind the Moffat defense for a 50-yard score, tying the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Moffat then answered with a 10-play drive as Hildebrandt plunged in from 2 yards out and added the 2-point conversion to stretch the Moffat lead to 22-14, but Roaring Fork would not go away.
On the ensuing drive Bernot found Jake Kelley for 20 yards and an extra 15 for a face mask, setting up a big 15-yard scramble by Bernot before Reed Featherstone found pay dirt from 11 yard out narrow the deficit. Roaring Fork’s 2-point conversion failed, keeping Moffat in front 22-20 late in the third quarter.
Not to be outdone, Klimper then took the ensuing kickoff from Roaring Fork and weaved his way 76 yards for a touchdown, stunning the Rams’ Homecoming crowd as the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 30-20. From there things turned into an entertaining shootout.
Bernot hooked up with Kelley for a 49-yard catch-and-run before Bernot capped off the quick 2-play drive with a 1-yard sneak to cut the Moffat lead to 30-26.
On Moffat’s next drive the Bulldogs again faced a critical 4th and 3, and again Hildebrandt and Moseman had trouble with the snap, allowing Pinela to race into the backfield and recover the ball at the Moffat 39-yard line, setting up the Rams’ offense in great field position.
One play later Bernot threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Dominguez, this time from 39 yards out to give Roaring Fork a 33-30 lead early in the fourth quarter. The return of Bernot this week with the start of league play gave the Rams a much-needed explosive element to their offense, which had struggled in recent weeks without their senior signal caller.
“We feel like we can score points with Hayden,” Jeff Kelley said. “No disrespect to my son, God love him, but he’s not a traditional quarterback and Hayden is. You can tell in this league — and all levels of football — if you have a good quarterback you’ll have success. We saw that tonight offensively.”
Following the scoring outburst by both teams, things slowed down in the fourth quarter before Hildebrandt capped off a 13-play drive that ate up almost seven minutes with a 4-yard run to give Moffat a 36-33 lead.
Down three points with just over five minutes to go, the Roaring Fork offense took the field and started to put together a good drive that reached Moffat territory, but a high throw from Bernot intended for Pinela was just out of the senior’s reach, resulting in a deflating turnover on downs, giving Moffat the ball and the win to open league play.
The Rams will travel to Steamboat Springs next week for a league matchup with the Sailors at 7 p.m.
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