Seniors end on high note |

Seniors end on high note

Hayden class finds happiness after missing football playoffs

Hayden senior Mitchell Vedepo, left, lays a hit on West Grand's Connor Widener while fellow senior Jeremy Engle drags him to the ground Friday as the Tigers won their final football game of the season, 47-12.

— Seven months of school remain. There are two more sports seasons to come and countless stories still to be created among them. Still, as seniors on the Hayden High School football team gathered together after Friday night’s game, the atmosphere signaled the end of something.

The 14 seniors seemed happy as they posed for pictures, smiling wide and clowning for the camera.

And they were happy, several admitted afterward. Despite the disappointment of the season – the game was Hayden’s last as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs – players said they were happy with how their final game ended.

“Every other year, we’ve lost our last game, but this year we got to win it,” senior quarterback Mitchel Doolin said. “We came out on fire, and it was great.”

Hayden rolled in its final showing, beating a hapless West Grand squad so severely that the fourth quarter clock ran non-stop. When it expired, the Tigers logged their fifth win of the season, 47-12.

The win assured Hayden a winning season record and a perfect record at home.

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Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said there was no better way to send off a senior class that had meant so much to the program.

“It gave the seniors one last good one to remember,” Baumgartner said. “The last four years, we had a lot of these seniors that stepped in. We had a lot of three-year starters with these guys and a lot of memories and things to be proud of.”

Hayden’s high tide came almost exactly a year ago. The team – good but not great during the regular season – surged through the playoffs and advanced all the way to the Class 1A state semifinals.

This year’s seniors helped lead that squad.

It was little surprise, then, when the Tigers were chosen as a heavy favorite to win the Western Slope League by league coaches before the season.

But Hayden’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be road games. It lost all four, and in the eighth game of the season it lost a chance at the playoffs with a 26-25 loss at Meeker.

“We played (Friday) like a team – the way we should have played all year,” senior running back Coy Letlow said. “We had problems with not showing up some games. We started off overconfident, and we just had certain games we didn’t play like we were capable of.”

That didn’t spoil the fun Friday.

The seniors’ last game came off as a sort of celebration, even with nothing tangible left to play for.

Doolin scored the first touchdown on a play so broken you couldn’t even draw it up in the playground dirt. Letlow seemingly went the distance whenever he wanted. His only mistake came when – having already scored three touchdowns and racked up more than 150 yards – he jokingly tried to hand the ball off to his senior teammate Braylin Wertenberger, an offensive lineman.

Senior Logan Foster logged his team’s only sack, but, far more important to him, he scored a touchdown right up the middle. He rumbled nearly untouched for 65 yards, straight up the gut and between the hashes.

“I’ve been wanting to get a touchdown like that all season because Coy runs it in every single time,” he said moments after the game.

He didn’t say much more, running down the field to join his classmates for the photos. Confronted with two lines of well-organized teammates, he plopped down right in front of them and stretched out like a model.

“You can always get satisfaction from a win like this,” Foster said. “Even though we didn’t go to the playoffs, that’s a part of life. You win some and you lose some. But it was great to go out with a win.”

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