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Bulldogs gear up for big football season

Sophomore Kade Hankins is tackled from behind after catching a pass in this file photo. (Journal file photo)
Dove Creek aims to contend with 8-man’s best

Dove Creek head coach Shane Baughman has the Bulldog football program really humming.

Entering his 11th year at the helm, Baughman will bring back much of his roster from a state quarterfinal appearance a season ago.

Dove Creek posted a 7-3 record, matching the best mark that the program has achieved under his tenure while also picking up back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since Baughman’s first two years as head coach.

With the depth of the returning talent, Dove Creek hopes to raise the bar in 2022.

A large senior class headlines the Bulldogs roster, a group that Baughman admires for its hard work and consistency. “They’ve all been playing together since they were kids,” said the Bulldog head coach, “and they’ve proven themselves to be reliable, putting in all the work in the weight room and in the camps to get ready.”

One of those seniors, Kade Hankins, could emerge as the starting quarterback to fill in for four-year starter Chorbin Cressler.

Junior Colten Fury also could find himself under center in the different offensive packages that offensive coordinator Jason Fury will get to employ this season.

Gage Buffington returns a punt down the sideline last season against Dolores. (Journal file photo)

Junior Gage Buffington led the team in rushing yards a season ago, but the Bulldogs really posed constant threats to opposition through their balanced ground attack. Hankins and several other Bulldogs will look to get plenty of touches this year to supplement Buffington’s bruising running style.

Senior Quaden Huffaker spearheads a lightning-quick defense from his linebacker position, while classmate Audric Chadd anchors a vaunted offensive and defensive line.

“We want to be aggressive on defense,” added Baughman. “We’re focused on taking the tempo to their offense.”

Seniors Cole Taber and Kendall Gardner ranked among the team leaders in tackles a season ago, and junior Tyson Beanland has continued his steady growth into one of the most dominant linemen in the classification.

“We really like our depth this year,” said Baughman of his confidence in rotating different players throughout the contest. “So that way we’re able to keep our guys fresh for four quarters.”

Dove Creek will look to start on the right foot when it plays host to Plateau Valley on Friday, Aug. 26, at the Soper Sports Complex for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The game can be heard on local radio station 98.7 KRTZ, as well as online at krtzradio.com.

From there, the Bulldogs take on a perennial playoff squad when Rangely visits on Labor Day weekend. A trip to take on New Mexico small-school powerhouse Melrose gives the Bulldogs a different opponent this fall, before they meet with Hayden and border-rival Monticello, whom they have not seen on the gridiron for a while.

Mountain League play commences Friday, Sept. 30, at home against Sanford, with a huge trip to face Mancos the following weekend, before games against Dolores and Sargent wrap up the regular season.

“The team made it clear that their goal is to take it one week at a time,” said Baughman, “and if we are successful doing that, we’re going to get to the places that we want to be at the end of the season.”