Spartans shut out by top-ranked Fort Morgan, focuses on Thompson Valley

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

The biannual conference realignment did not do the Berthoud High School (BHS) football team any favors. The Spartans have played three straight road games, traveling close to 400 miles round-trip in three weeks. Berthoud has dropped all three games, the most recent coming at the hands of top-ranked Fort Morgan, 39-0 on Sept. 23.

Head Coach Troy Diffendaffer was aware of the tough schedule – Berthoud’s last three opponents are a combined 8-3 on the season – and long road trips to start the season, but refused to use it as an excuse.

“You have to play who is on your schedule; there’s no way to change it,” he said.

Diffendaffer put a positive spin on the schedule, explaining the adversity will help his team be better prepared for league play in the newly-minted 3A Tri-Valley Conference (TVC). The third-year head coach also said playing a tougher non-conference schedule will be of benefit for the Spartans RPI rankings that are used to help determine state playoff seeding at season’s end.

The undefeated Fort Morgan Mustangs were simply too much for the young Berthoud squad to handle. Fort Morgan has nearly twice as many players as Berthoud, have better size along their offensive and defensive lines, and boast 22 seniors to the Spartans two. Making matters more difficult, the teams had to play in gale-force winds on the high plains that gave fits to an already-struggling Berthoud special-teams unit.

The Mustangs scored 13 points in the first quarter and another 20 in the second to take a commanding 33-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Berthoud was out-gained 365 yards to 69 and made only two first downs to the Mustangs 21.

In part due to the blustery conditions, but also because they’re a “three yards and a cloud of dust” type of football team. The Mustangs attempted only four passes on the night compared to 54 running plays. Fort Morgan senior Tate Kembel led all players with 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Berthoud is always going to be a size-challenged team, it’s something Diffendaffer and the team are well aware of.

“The kids are learning to play at the speed at this level, knowing they’re always going to be out-sized,” he explained. “It’s about learning and applying their technique, playing team football and using all the experiences they get, whether positive or negative, and growing from it.”

The Spartans will put the ugly loss to Fort Morgan behind them and focus on Friday night’s homecoming game with Thompson Valley. The Eagles are 0-4 on the season, having been out-scored by a combined 145-67. Berthoud was awarded a win via forfeit in their season-opening game against Greeley Central, a game that would have been a 41-18 loss.

Despite the struggles early in the season, which truthfully were unsurprising given the tough schedule and almost total lack of varsity experience on the Berthoud roster, Diffendaffer remains optimistic.

“We leave frustrated with the game, but then the next day we put on the tape and we realize that we’re not far away,” Diffendaffer said. “It’s a little thing here, a little thing there, and dang it the kids want to work, they want to get better and they’ve been putting in the work.”

Berthoud kicks off its annual homecoming game at Max Marr Field at BHS at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. The Spartans begin league play the following week with a trip to Erie but will close out the season playing three of their final four games at home.