The Hayden Tigers will travel to Rangely today for their final game of the season. Rangely, the state's eighth-ranked 1A team, has one of the most balanced offenses of the Western Slope, and Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner knows it will take everything his team has to stop it.
"They're big up front," Baumgartner said. "They have one of the best passing attacks in the league. We'll have to play as hard as we can."
The Tigers (2-8, 0-6) are still searching for their first league victory of the season. After focusing each week on improving fundamental areas of the game, Baumgartner said he has preached that the team must play to the best of its ability.
The Tigers did that against Soroco, Baumgartner said. Stopping Soroco in the first quarter with a fourth-down, goal-line stand was particularly big for Hayden.
"We've had some bright and shining moments this year," Baumgartner said. "At times, we really seemed to click, and we've just had kids step it up throughout the year."
Baumgartner said players grew closer over the course of the year and developed a better sense of teamwork, rather than seeing themselves as individuals with individual duties on the field.
"We were looking at separate positions at the beginning of the year," he said. "Now they see themselves as a group that works together. They will fight for each other. Just seeing that come together shows that we've come a long way this year. Team continuity will be key for us in the long- run."
The team has lacked continuity, particularly on its coaching staff, in the past few years. Baumgartner and company represent the third change in staff in three years. Baumgartner said this staff would be back next season.
Though Baumgartner said he has not thought too much about next season, he is glad the bulk of the team is coming back. The Tigers will lose four seniors.
If Hayden wins tonight, it would be a big upset for the Rangely Panthers (6-2, 5-1).