Mustang stampede dampens Tigers homecoming celebration
It wasn’t the homecoming Hayden was hoping for, but despite being on the wrong side of a lopsided score for most of Friday’s game against West Grand, the Tigers managed to take at least one thing away from the loss.
“Our kids fight, and they never stop trying,” Hayden coach Ryan Wilkie said following the Tigers’ 53-18 loss. “They hung in there and fought every play, and that’s all you can ask of them.”
Wilkie said West Grand is by far the best team the Tigers have seen all season, and he wasn’t surprised when the Mustangs took the early lead and never really took the foot off the gas. West Grand coach Chris Brown said the performance was an improvement for his team, which was missing a couple of key players and working with a revamped offensive line.
“We have not looked good the past couple of weeks, so this was better,” Brown said. “We had some guys that had to fill in tonight, and they did pretty well for us.”
The Mustangs set the tone early, when split end Jake Bentler, who finished the first half with 75 yards on the ground, broke out for a 55-yard touchdown run. West Grand added the two-point conversion and was up 8-0 only three minutes into the contest.
But the Mustangs hard-hitting offense wasn’t close to being done.
A few minutes later, quarterback Luis Dominguez capped the next West Grand drive with a three-yard run into the end zone to make the score 16-0, with the two point conversion. A tipped pass that was intercepted set up Dominguez’s second touchdown of the quarter and gave the visiting Mustangs a comfortable 24-0 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the quarter.
But despite the rough start, the Tigers didn’t give up.
Hayden struck back before the end of the quarter, driving down the field behind a couple of solid runs and a West Grand roughing-the-passer penalty that helped Hayden escape a third and long. With the ball inside the 20 yard line, Hayden quarterback Garrett St. Clair avoided a sack, escaped the defender and hit tight end Richard Hallenbeck with a touchdown pass.
Hayden failed to convert the extra point, but managed to make the score 24-6 at the end of the first quarter. Hollenbeck finished the night with 47 receiving yards, a touchdown and a fumble recovery.
“It’s hard to play a team like this on homecoming night, but we sure did play hard,” Hallenbeck said. “The group of guys we got are really close, and I’m amazed at how hard we fight for one another and how we pick each other up. We like to play to the end, and we always play our hearts out.”
The second quarter, however, was all West Grand.
Dominguez added a touchdown with just over 11 minutes remaining in the half on a three-yard scramble to make the score 30-6 after the failed conversion. Another tipped ball led to an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Josh O’Hotto.
By the time Darian Murphy and Austin Wolford stepped onto the field to be crowned homecoming king and queen, the score of the football game was 38-6.
West Grand’s attack was fueled by freshman Junior Fleets, who rushed for 86 yards in the first half. Dominguez added 61 yards and two touchdowns, Bentler added 75 and Tom Henderhand rushed for 49.
West Grand ended any real chance of a comeback early in the second half, when Henderland made the score 44-6 on a 15-yard touchdown run. The score started the running clock, limiting any opportunity for a late rally by the home team.
But that didn’t stop the Tigers from trying. St. Clair hit Hallenbeck on a 33-yard pass play that set up a Tigers score. St. Clair scrambled into the end zone with four minutes remaining in the third quarter to make the score 46-12. West Grand’s Noah Schroeder extended the Mustangs’ lead to 53-12 in the fourth quarter before St. Clair hit Daylon Frentress for the final score of the night.
St. Clair had 75 yards on 15 carries to lead the Tigers’ rushing attack. He was also 11-25 for 98 yards passing and two touchdowns. Frentress had 63 yards on two carries and also caught a touchdown pass. He anchored the team’s defense with 12 tackles.
West Grand improved to 4-1 on the season, and Hayden fell to 2-3. The Tigers will regroup this week before traveling to Rangely on Oct. 7.
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