Tigers hope for homecoming victory against Panthers | SteamboatToday.com

Tigers hope for homecoming victory against Panthers

— It’s Homecoming week in Hayden, and for the Tiger football team at center stage, there may be nothing more comforting.

Hayden lost its second game of the season last week, falling at Paonia, 24-19. The Tigers will try to rebound at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Rangley, and they’re thrilled to be doing so at home.

“Homecoming is different, because you have some distractions during the week, but once Friday comes, it’s a great atmosphere,” Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “We get tons of support from the community and the school.”

The Tigers (3-2) may find that rebound opportunity against a bruised and oft-beaten Rangely (0-4) squad.

The Panthers have developed a consistent passing game thanks to quarterback Kanden Brady, but they have struggled in many other segments.

The most obvious shortcoming for the Panthers is their run defense. Rangely is 0-4 in its four varsity games this year, and its propensity to give up significant rushing yards is a big reason why. Hotchkiss ran for 430 yards last week in a 59-20 win. One Hotchkiss back gained nearly 300 yards on 20 carries.

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“We just can’t stop a running game, which really hurts us for this week,” Rangely coach Mark Jansen said. “We have been getting physically manhandled on the line and have had a terrible time stopping anyone on the ground.”

Jansen’s diagnosis has all the makings of a big day for Hayden running back Coy Letlow.

“Our brand of football is definitely to try to establish the run first,” Baumgartner said. “That gameplan probably won’t change this week. We definitely want to get Coy going.”

The Panthers offense also has struggled at times. It took a crucial blow in the first game of the season when backfield-mainstay Patrick Phelan broke his ankle. Phelan figured to rotate at quarterback with Brady and was the more accomplished of the two when running the ball.

Rangely has adapted by nearly abandoning the run and focusing on a pass-first spread offense.

Brady has racked up nearly 1,000 yards through the air this season, and he could give the Tigers fits.

“Their quarterback is pretty good, and they’ll throw it to anyone they can,” Baumgartner said. “Their offensive line is good, but we’ll have to get some pressure back there. If we give them time, that quarterback will pick us apart.”

It will take good performances from Hayden’s defensive line and backfield for the Tigers to get back on the winning track.

“The stands will be packed. The people will be behind us. We’re just looking forward to the opening gun Friday night for a fun time,” Baumgartner said.