Hayden If the scoreboard at Hayden High School had been working on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers would have lit it up all day. As it was, the best way to tell the score was to follow the footprints of Tigers such as quarterback Kevin Miller to the end zone as the team marched over the Plateau Valley Cowboys 38-12.
The Cowboys, 2-3, were league champs last year but fielded a young squad Saturday and struggled against the larger and speedier Tigers.
Miller, driving his team ahead with his broken right arm in a cast, continually sparked the Tigers, who were coming off a tough loss to league rival West Grand last Saturday in Kremmling. The left-hander executed the option to perfection, running in two touchdowns and tossing for one more.
He racked up 88 rushing yards and 98 passing yards and added eight tackles from his linebacker position to lead the team in that category.
"We're tired of losing," Miller said after the game, as the Tigers improved to 2-3. "A lot of the team pulled together today."
Miller said Coach Kevin Kleckler put the team through grueling practices all week after the Tigers lost 27-6 to West Grand, which holds the top spot in the league and is ranked No. 2 in the state in Division 1A football.
"We did a whole lot of running this week," said Derek Stephenson, praising the coach for instilling a good work ethic in the team.
Stephenson, a kickoff returner and wide receiver, put all those training runs to good use Saturday, sprinting the length of the field virtually untouched for two touchdowns, one of which was called back after a penalty. Riley Whiteman and Jacques Denker also put the ball in the end zone Whiteman did it twice for the Tigers. Denker ran for 137 yards and added an interception.
The defense held Plateau Valley out of scoring position for most of the day, turning on the pressure at the end of the second quarter after a defender was charged with a face-mask penalty. On the next two plays, the defense showed its mettle, recording a sack and a fierce tackle for a loss which resulted in the running back's helmet flying off.
"There's a face mask!" Kleckler yelled gleefully at the referee.
In the second half, the defense allowed few holes to open, holding the Cowboys to six points and racking up three sacks along the way.
On one sack, lineman Tanner Copeland unleashed his 6'4", 215 lb., frame on two Cowboys, knocking both the quarterback and running back down.
"I wasn't sure who had the ball, so I decided to tackle them both," he said.
The Tigers are now 1-1 in the league and, with the top two teams in the four-team league advancing, have improved their chances at making the playoffs.
But there's a long road ahead.
Kleckler said the Tigers will have to play their next three league games with a definite sense of purpose and mental toughness before their rematch with West Grand on Oct. 26.