High times in Hayden

Tigers remain unbeaten with 61-12 win

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With 2 minutes and 41 seconds left in the third quarter and Hayden holding a comfortable 61-6 lead, the Tigers cheerleaders began to chant, "We are (clap, clap) No. 1."

It was catchy. The crowd joined in. And as the wins keep coming, the Hayden football team continues to build its case that it just might be the state's best team in Class 1A, or at least the Western Slope.

Granted, the Cowboys, Friday's opponent, weren't very good, but the Tigers didn't play down to the level of competition, winning 61-12.

Instead, Hayden (5-0 overall 3-0 in league play) capitalized quickly, forcing Plateau Valley to punt on its first possession. The Tigers then scored on their second play from scrimmage off a 42-yard pass from quarterback Keenan Bruchez to running back Jesse Drennan.

The 42-yard part is deceiving. The play is called 21-12, and it simply calls for Bruchez to hit Drennan on a quick 3-yard pass to the outside. As soon as Drennan catches the ball, he is free to sprint down the sideline, daring the opposition to catch him. Few have.

"That's what he scores on every time," Bruchez said.

No one was smiling more than Bruchez after the game. In what was essentially 24 minutes of playing time, Bruchez completed 11-of-14 passes for 331 yards and six touchdowns. At one point, he completed eight-straight passes. He threw no interceptions. He was never sacked.

"We just get what he can take," Bruchez said.

The problem is the opposition is left struggling with coverage. Take defenders away from the line, and Drennan and Cam Whiteman will run rampant. Leave cornerbacks and safeties to fend for themselves, and the Tigers will happily catch passes all night.

Friday, Hayden did both.

Whiteman, a senior, ran for 151 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He was also crowned homecoming king to top off his night.

On the receiving end, three players caught passes from Bruchez, and Friday it was tight end Tyson Letlow's turn in the spotlight.

"We've got a lot of guys across the board who can make plays," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "We knew we'd have a linebacker on him, and we could take advantage of that."

Letlow finished with seven receptions for 182 yards and three touchdowns.

Both Letlow and Bruchez said the improved play of the offensive line, one of the smallest units in the Western Slope League, was the key reason behind the offense's ability to score at will.

Senior Evan Hilling scored the Tigers' two other touchdowns on beautiful, leaping catches. His first, a 69-yard score, was a catch over the head of Hansi Feller. The Cowboys corner was in position. but at 5-foot-8, there was little Feller could do when Hilling, 6-foot-4, went up in the air as well.

The only obvious mistakes Hayden had during Friday's lopsided win were the 10 penalties for 110.5 yards. Nine came in the first half off a series of personal fouls and illegal blocks.

"At times, we let our emotions get the best of us," Baumgartner said. "We hadn't beaten them in two years, and they came out fired up."

The Tigers won't need to dig to find motivation next week. Hayden's next game is against Meeker at 7 p.m. Friday in Meeker. The Tigers and Cowboys are undefeated in league play, so next Friday's game will give one team the inside track to a league championship and a spot in the playoffs.

"We'll have to work on establishing the run," Letlow said. "Because we can pass pretty much on anyone."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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