After losing in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Dove Creek High School football team is ready for another go. As usual, hopes surrounding this year’s Bulldogs team are high.
“The kids came up with their goals and they want to be a final four team (in the state),” said head coach Shane Baughman. “They have the ability to do that.”
Figuring to lead this year’s offense will be senior running back Chance Randolph, junior quarterback Jordan Ernst and junior fullback Case Baughman. All capable runners, the three-man trio is hoping to anchor what figures to be a solid rushing attack.
“I think our running game is going to be pretty good,” said Randolph, who rushed for 1290 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. “I think we have a good line.”
Anchoring the Bulldogs line this season will be senior Tyler Knuckles, junior Spencer Gatlin, sophomore Scott Gatlin and possibly others. All three players will also line up on the defensive line, which Spencer Gatlin expects to be stout.
“We want to have a lot more sacks and tackles for a loss than we did last year,” said Gatlin. “We don’t want to give up any big plays.”
Among the questions facing this year’s team will be how best to fill the shoes of last year’s top wide receiver, Nick Jones, who graduated in May. According to Shane Baughman, juniors Collin Hobbs, Austin Barnett and Shane Fury will split time at receiver this season.
This season, the Bulldogs will compete for the first time in the A-8 Mountain League, which will feature 8-man teams from Sierra Grande, Sanford, Sangre de Cristo, Del Norte, Sargent and Mancos.
“We want to try to bring home the (league) championship,” said Shane Baughman. “The team that won it last year was Sargent. I think it’s kind of a toss up (and will come down to) who is playing the best ball.”
Playing the first game of their season on Aug. 29, the Bulldogs will face off against Norwood High School in Dove Creek at 7 p.m. Currently ranked second in the state, Norwood figures to challenge for Dove Creek on both sides of the ball.
“It’s nice to get that kind of competition here,” said Shane Baughman. “I hope the kids come ready to go. They are pretty fired up about it.”
“We’ve got a real big rivalry with Norwood and we’re going to try our hardest to get the win,” added Tyler Knuckles. “We’re excited.”