Hayden looking forward to start of new season, chance to improve
Steamboat Springs — When Hayden’s Christian Carson showed up for practice two weeks ago, he didn’t need the coaches to motivate him to get back to work on the football field.
“We are definitely a more conditioned team this season, and we are a lot more focused in practices,” Carson said. “Last year, we had the fifth toughest schedule in eight-man football in the state, and that left an impression.”
Carson’s drive this season is fueled by the memories of playing that 2015 schedule and finishing 1-7 for the year.
“I’m motivated because I don’t want this season to end like that,” Carson said. “My goal is to finish with a winning record this season. Last year, I saw ways I could better myself as a player and as a leader.”
Carson said his desire to get better started shortly after the final game and drove him to start preparing this summer. It’s the reason he spent hours in the gym working to get stronger, and the reason he’s been on the track running. Carson and his teammates wanted to make sure they were ready for the opening game and for the season.
Kickoff for Hayden’s home opener will be at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We just have to put it behind us,” second-year coach Ryan Wilkie said of the 2015-16 campaign. “Last season, we ended up playing a lot of young kids, and because of that, they got experience at the varsity level, which is great for us. Our leadership is improved, we had far better attendance in our weight room this summer, and most importantly, we learned how to handle adversity.”
The coach said because of league changes the team will have a more favorable schedule this fall, and he is hoping to take a step in the right direction Friday when the team faces the visiting Panthers from Nederland.
“We are excited about our schedule,” Wilkie said. “it’s going to be nice to open our season with some programs that we can compete with.”
Last year, the Tigers faced Dayspring Christian and Merino in the first two weeks of the season. Both teams were ranked in the top-10 at the time.
Wilkie isn’t sure what to expect in Friday’s contest since it’s the first week of the season and neither team has played. However, he is confident the Tigers will be competitive.
“I know that Nederland lost 12 seniors from last year’s team, but this is zero week, so we don’t have any film,” Wilkie said. “You never know what to expect when a team loses that many players, but we are not taking them for granted. We are going to prepare like we will be facing a team that will be in the playoffs at the end of the year.”
The Tigers will return a solid core of players from last season including Carson, who will play fullback and linebacker for the team. He will be joined by linebacker Tyler Boyer and guard and defensive end Peyton Spafford — all three players are seniors.
Other players with varsity playing time returning to the team this year include Garret St. Clair, Ethan Kern, Lebo Armendariz and Justin Fry.
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