Steamboat Springs First it was those darned bulls. Then a four-wheeler got him. But Allan Lighthizer is finally ready for some football.
After injuries sidelined the Hayden tight end and defensive end for his first three falls of his high school career, the senior will take the field Thursday for his first game ever as Hayden opens the 2002 season against Moffat County's junior varsity at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.
"Thursday night is going to be an awesome game," Lighthizer said.
First-game jitters are common for everyone. Even new coach Scott Parker is suffering from a slight case of pigskin panic, but it's more anxiousness than worry.
"I've been looking forward to the first game since I was hired," he said.
Two things have settled the first-year coach's stomach. One, the game is a short 15 minutes away, and Parker said he is treating it like a home game to gently nudge his young team into the season. Second, he has a senior quarterback.
"Kelly (Bruchez) is a great leader," Parker said. "He has control of the offensive huddle, and it puts me at ease. I don't have to worry about the QB."
Judging by recent performances in Saturday's scrimmages against the much larger Summit and Battle Mountain schools, there may be less to worry about than a coach with just three weeks with a new team expected.
"We held our own against both schools bigger in number and size," Parker said. "We came out and played hard and didn't back down."
He felt that showed his team that hard work is rewarded, and just because a team is supposed to be better on paper doesn't mean that will hold true. Junior tight end Jared Alpe got the message. He admitted to being a little surprised at how well Hayden matched up against their larger opponents in the scrimmages.
Now, he is expecting success Thursday night against Moffat County's JV. They hung with Summit and Battle Mountain, so why not Moffat County?
"That would be awesome wouldn't it?" Alpe asked.
Still, Parker is quick to note that it is a first game. And, as much confidence as he has in his players' work ethic, he is equally certain that game film will show areas where the Tigers can improve. He is pleased with the progress in such a short amount of time, but during the non-league portion of Hayden's schedule, he isn't even concerning himself with scouting the opposition.
"With these first couple of games we're going to focus on what we do well and on what we're doing," he said.
What has impressed the former Fort Morgan assistant most thus far has been the improvement of the all-important offensive line. Parker said the linemen are still a "work in progress," but they are quickly picking up the new blocking schemes.
The players' ability to learn clapping drills Parker brought from Fort Morgan has paralleled in impressiveness. Down in a squat, they took instruction from assistant Shawn Baumgartner on when to clap and slap their legs in complete unison.
"At first we were like, 'Um,'" said Lighthizer. "But now it's cool, and it's a team thing."
"I thought I'd bring a little of the plains to the mountains," Parker said.
Come Thursday, he's hoping he packed some of those wins in the move as well.