You think this season has been fun for the Hayden football players? Look at their parents. The adults, clad in orange and black, holding signs and waving pompoms, have stopped their lives and given up their weekends to drive to games, including Saturday's playoff game in Wray, a remote agricultural town nearly 400 miles from Hayden.
It isn't uncommon to read or hear stories about fanatical parents affronting officials, coaches or one other, becoming so consumed with success for their children that they throw fits like spoiled children. Rarely, however, can you find articles praising parents committed to being in attendance and praising their children -- win or lose. Granted, appropriate behavior shouldn't be news. It should be expected, but in Hayden this season, the parents have taken support to another level.
Rather than travel across the state in school buses designed for elementary school children, the Tigers traveled in style on a charter bus. The $2,700 rental was paid for by donations that parents collected from individuals and businesses. Saturday, the parents filled the visiting stands at Powell Field. Rather than send the players off with a kiss and some lunch money, the parents -- and the town -- organized a pep rally Friday, complete with dancing mothers, doughnut-passing players and giant orange banners. Nearly 200 people turned out.
Usually, it's the moms who draw the most attention. They are the ones who make the signs, scream the loudest and get the most emotional. Things were no different Saturday when they needed to console their boys after a loss.
But dads played their role, too. At points this season, the nervousness and anticipation of games became so great that Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brett Hilling, father of senior Evan Hilling, had trouble sleeping and eating. Nothing was different Friday night at the Comfort Inn in Fort Morgan. Other fathers confirmed they had the same pre-game jitters. The other troopers who work with Brett Hilling have been accommodating this season, covering shifts so he could travel to see his son play. Brett Hilling returns the favor when he can.
Work and football pretty much have been Mike Letlow's life this fall. His son, Tyson, is a junior on the team. Mike Letlow grew up playing football in Louisiana, in a small town much like Hayden. He said this season has been just as much fun for the parents as it has been for the players, not to mention the community.
"It picks up the town," Mike Letlow said. "It's something everyone can relate to."
Saturday, Hayden's season ended 400 miles from the comforts of home. Hundreds made the drive to support one of the Tigers' greatest seasons in memory. Hayden was 10-1 overall and captured the Western Slope League title in impressive fashion.
Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said getting over Saturday's loss to Wray may take awhile, but he knows there will come a time when everyone from Hayden and Northwest Colorado can reflect on the Tigers' tremendous season. Congratulations, Tigers.