Saturday, November 13, 2004
The joy of a passing game is in its big play and high-scoring potential. The downfall of relying on the passing game is what happens when nothing seems to work.
And Saturday, little went right for the Tigers football team, as top-ranked Wray routed Hayden, 55-14, at Powell Field in Wray. Tigers quarterback Keenan Bruchez worked out of the shotgun all afternoon. Without the help of the run -- Hayden finished with negative 2 yards on the ground -- Bruchez was forced to elude Wray defenders who knew he was going to throw.
Bruchez had difficulty finding his timing with his core of receivers. Several dropped passes by the Tigers didn't help, as Hayden amassed just 75 yards in the air and 73 total yards in the game. And for those who opted not to make the 800-mile roundtrip expedition into farming country, they missed watching a Wray team that has to be considered the favorite to win the Class 1A state title.
Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner thinks the Eagles could win the Class 2A title.
"I'm speechless," he said. "I knew they had team speed, but they were big and fast."
The coaches thought Hayden had two running plays that might have some success against Wray's aggressive defense. When both those plays went for negative yardage, Baumgartner chucked all notions of establishing the run. Hayden had to throw but couldn't.
"I think the offensive line did a good job," Hayden senior Evan Hilling said. "The shotgun usually helps us because Keenan is already back to pass. It just wasn't there."
The Tigers were disappointed in ending their unbeaten streak with such a lopsided loss, but they have little reason to be upset with the season. Hayden returned to the
playoffs for the first time since 2001 and won the Western Slope League title for the first time since 1988.
Hilling was only 2 years old the last time the Tigers won the title. On Saturday, he celebrated his 18th birthday and played in his 39th varsity game. This season will rank as one of the more memorable he's had.
"I didn't think we'd be 10-0 and win the league the way we did," he said.
Saturday, Wray came out in the first half and backed up its top ranking. Hayden had difficulty bringing down the Wray running backs and receivers, which led to two big plays for scores and others for first downs. The Eagles got on the scoreboard with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left on junior Nick Williams' 10-yard run. He set up that score with a 60-yard vintage scamper, complete with patience and broken tackles. He had several more Barry Sanders-esque runs later in the game.
Wray added its second score nearly two minutes later on a 69-yard pass from quarterback Joel Orr to 6-foot-4 receiver Weston Johnson. It was a short completion, and Johnson added 55 yards to his stats on the run after the catch.
Wray did most of its damage on yards after the catch and rushing yards after contact during the game.
The turnovers were even through the first half, but Wray was able to capitalize on Dylan Hochevar's interception 9:47 into the half. Williams scored his second touchdown Saturday on a 43-yard run on the first play from the line of scrimmage after the Hayden turnover. Senior Jesse Drennan picked off Orr on Wray's first possession, but Hayden had difficulty moving the ball during the first 24 minutes. The Tigers started tackling better toward the end of the second quarter, and they finally caught two big breaks when Eagles' center Tate Minton and long snapper Nathan Welp snapped two-straight balls over Orr's head. The mistakes allowed Hayden to take over on downs on Wray's 27-yard line. Three plays later, Bruchez found Drennan in the left side of the end zone, floating the ball perfectly into Drennan's hands over the top of two defenders.
Hayden opened the second half with the ball but did not score. The defense, however, held on fourth-and-19 to halt Wray's drive. The Eagles responded behind Williams and Cure and never looked back, scoring 27 second-half points in the win.
Hayden added its final score with 3:06 left in the game off Bruchez's 5-yard completion to Hilling on a fade route in the same spot that Drennan caught his touchdown pass.
Wray (11-0) advances to the semifinals to face Dolores, which defeated Del Norte on Saturday. Wray will travel to Dolores.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org