Hayden hosts Byers in playoffs | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden hosts Byers in playoffs

Melinda Mawdsley

The beginning of the week is quiet in the halls of Hayden High School. Toward the end, however, the football talk usually begins and it gets harder to concentrate, senior Evan Hilling said.

This week is a little different. It’s a playoff week, so focusing on school has been difficult since Monday.

Hayden opens the 2004 Class A playoffs against Byers at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hayden High School. The Tigers enter with an impressive resume: Western Slope League title, a 9-0 record and the state’s most prolific passing attack.

It means nothing now.

“It’s business as usual,” Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “It’s the same approach we’ve been taking. It’s one week at a time. You have to win this one before you get to the next one.”

The opponent this week is a Byers squad that had to fight for its playoff life after opening the season with tough losses. The Bulldogs (4-5 overall) only play four seniors, coach David Dodge said, so the team has gotten better each week as the underclassmen learned the schemes.

Byers, which is 35 miles east of Denver, is the No. 3 seed in the South Central League. The Bulldogs needed Peyton to defeat Miami-Yoder on Oct. 29 to make it to the playoffs. Dodge said Principal Ray Apking traveled to the Peyton versus Miami-Yoder game to provide updates.

“We got the help we needed,” Dodge said. “He was calling every quarter to let us know. … We are happy our seniors were able to accomplish one of the goals we set as a team. I’m tickled they have a chance to experience the playoffs. As far as our young kids, it’s a great opportunity for them. We aren’t expected to do anything.”

Hayden is favored to win based on regular-season results, but the Tigers aren’t playing Saturday’s game on paper. Baumgartner is well-aware of the Bulldogs’ passing offense. There is only one team with more passing yards in the state this season than Byers — and that team is Hayden.

“It will be as close as we can come to playing ourselves,” Baumgartner said. “They run more formations than we do. They seem to throw more downfield than we do. I think it will be a challenge for us this week to stop their pass. This is such a predominant run league we are in. We have been able to stack the box to stop the run and make teams pass. Now, we have to stop the pass to make them run.”

Hilling is a veteran member of the Tigers’ secondary, and though he agrees that Hayden’s pass defense hasn’t really been tested, he is confident the team will be ready to play.

“If we play our game, the scoreboard will say what we want it to at the end,” Hilling said.

Hayden’s defense has been overshadowed by its high-scoring offense most of the season, but the Tigers figure to get one of their bigger tests of the season Saturday. On the flipside, Byers is no stranger to facing tough competition. Limon, the top-ranked team in Class A, was the South Central League champion. Hayden, however, presents a different challenge for the relatively young Byers squad.

“They look very good on film,” Dodge said. “They are very fast and well-coached.”

Hayden is planning a pep rally at 2:57 p.m. today at Hayden High School. High school activities director Kevin Kleckler said the town of Hayden is busy turning itself orange and black in preparation for Saturday’s game.

Tickets for Saturday’s game are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Children 4 and younger are free. Colorado High School Coaches Association and Colorado High School Activities Association passes will be accepted. No other passes are permissible.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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