Baumgartner wins Coach of the Year |

Baumgartner wins Coach of the Year

Luke Graham

Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner gives his team a pep talk at halftime of a football game in Hayden on Nov. 3.

Steamboat Springs — It caught Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner off guard. — It caught Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner off guard.

— It caught Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner off guard.

The Tigers coach – who usually doesn’t get the Rocky Mountain News – happened to have someone drop one by his office Thursday morning.

He scanned down the list of All-Colorado and All-State teams before he came to the selection of the Rocky’s Class 1A Coach of the Year.

Next to it, to his surprise, he found his name.

“I feel really honored,” Baumgartner said. “That award just doesn’t go to me. It goes to the entire coaching staff. Without them, we’d never be in the situation we would have been in. I feel good and honored, but you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

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While Baumgartner deflects the credit, it’s hard to ignore his results.

Hayden has made the playoffs four of his five years, making its deepest run this season before falling to eventual champion Akron in the Class 1A state semifinals.

“Shawn’s a great coach,” said Hayden defensive coordinator Bob Harris. “If he can stay put and keep it up, he’ll make his mark on coaching in the state of Colorado. I’m tickled to death Shawn got this award.”

Harris knows a little something about coaching.

The veteran coach has roamed sidelines in the Yampa Valley for 43 years. He helped former Steamboat Springs coach Mark Drake build the Sailors into a perennial contender.

Harris said what has made Baumgartner successful – aside from his knowledge of the game – has been his relationships with the players.

“There’s nobody more deserving or that works harder,” Harris said. “He’s committed to the kids and teaches them more than just football. He’s always consistent and fair.”

Baumgartner started his football career playing cornerback at Fort Lewis College in Durango. After serving as a student assistant for a year and defensive backs coach for another, he got his first head coaching job at Highland High School in Ault.

After four years in Ault, he became a graduate assistant for one year at North Dakota State University – one of the premier Division I-AA programs in the nation. But, somewhere in the process, Baumgartner got the urge to get back to the mountains. The Steamboat area appealed to him, and with an opening in Hayden, he jumped at the chance.

After winning only two games in Baumgartner’s first year, the Tigers have been a fixture atop the Western Slope League and in the Class 1A playoffs.

This year may have been Baumgartner’s best job yet.

With high expectations coming into the season, Hayden dropped its opening league game to West Grand, making the rest of the season essentially a win-or-go-home situation.

While Hayden picked up one more loss to Grand Valley, the Tigers certainly turned it around.

“He told us after West Grand that what we wanted out of the season was up to us,” senior linebacker and tight end Aaron Haskins said. “You couldn’t ask for a better coach. He’s great on the field, but he’s always there off the field.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

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