Bulldogs begin title quest
Dove Creek hosts West Grand in 1st-round of 8-man playoffs
Despite not having what players and coaches felt was their best game last Saturday, Dove Creek has earned respect.
The Colorado 8-man playoff bracket seeded the Bulldogs eighth in the first-round. Dove Creek will play at home Saturday against 9-seeded West Grand.
“We’re pretty happy we got that home playoff game,” first-year Bulldogs coach Shane Baughman said. “It sure is big not having to travel.”
The Mustangs (6-3) of Kremmling come to Dolores County as champions of the Central League. West Grand pummeled Pikes Peak Christian 54-6 last Saturday in its cross-divisional game and is on a six-game winning streak.
“West Grand is a good team. They’re pretty hot right now,” Baughman said.
Dove Creek (6-2) beat Sanford 30-25 in its cross-divisional contest. A game that saw the Bulldogs turn the ball over six times and struggle defensively against the pass for a majority of the time.
“We’re going to work on pass coverage and our pass rush. They throw the ball quite a bit,” Baughman said. “They spread it out a lot throwing the ball.”
Things didn’t start out well for longtime West Grand coach Chris Brown. The Mustangs had injuries and ineligible players to begin the season, which resulted in an 0-3 start.
However, the Mustangs got healthy and got hot.
“We had 15 kids the first game. We weren’t anywhere near full strength against Kiowa and Elbert,” said Brown, who is in his 37th season as a head coach. “We only have one kid out right now. This late in the year, that’s OK.”
West Grand lost 46-0 at home to Elbert and held off Rangely at home 42-35. Those are the two common opponents between the Bulldogs and Mustangs. Dove Creek beat Rangely at home 64-38 and lost 38-14 to Elbert at a neutral site. Other than that, the Bulldogs and Mustangs are as different as their mascots.
“We’ve been preaching that everyone is 0-0 and it doesn’t matter this late in the season what your record is,” Baughman said. “Teams get hot and play well. I just hope we can be one of those teams that gets hot at the right time.”
Brown has 288 wins in Colorado to rank him third all-time behind the late Pat Panek (306), and good friend and former Dove Creek coach Kenneth Soper (305).
But Saturday’s showdown is just another game.
“I have no emotional attachment,” said Brown, who is 1-1 in his career against Dove Creek. “Shane has done a great job down there.”
West Grand will try to match the physicality of the Bulldogs.
“Dove Creek has been playing well. They have tough kids. You don’t face a softie anymore,” Brown said.
Junior quarterback Nick Ritschard will guide a balanced Mustangs offensive attack. Baughman has his Bulldogs preparing for multiple schemes besides West Grand’s pass-happy spread offense.
A playoff win would be the school’s first since 2006 when Dove Creek beat Hoehne, 36-6.
“That would be great for the program,” said Baughman about beating West Grand. “It’s been a little while since we won that first-round playoff game. Hopefully, the kids understand what it takes to get to that next level and be a final-four type of team. They have the capability, it’s just learning how to sustain learning what it takes to be that caliber of a team.”
Kickoff is Saturday at 1 p.m. in Dove Creek.