The Hayden Tigers football team completed the team's first undefeated regular season in more than 20 years Friday night in Oak Creek with a 38-14 victory over the Soroco Rams.
"It been a long time," coach Shawn Baumgartner said after his team finished the season with a 9-0 record. "I'm so proud of these kids and the way they've responded to things this year. We've come together so much as a team this year, and you couldn't ask for anything more."
The coach and his players couldn't have scripted a better game than they got in the regular-season finale against the Rams.
"Soroco is our biggest rival," running back Cam Whiteman said after the game. "It doesn't matter where we are at, or how many games we've won, they always play us tough. This was a big win for us."
Despite the driving snow and low temperatures, both teams were able to move the ball in the first half.
"The ball wasn't that hard to hold onto, but it was difficult to get the traction to run," Whiteman said. "You had to keep your feet moving up and down or you would slip."
But in the first half, the heavily favored Tigers didn't rely on the run, instead the team turned to the arm and foot of senior Keenan Bruchez.
Bruchez put the Tigers up early by hitting a 25-yard field goal with 8:50 remaining in the second quarter.
The senior quarterback, who has passed for 1,810 yards this season, then threw two touchdown passes to Evan Hilling to help give the Tigers a 16-0 lead. He finished the night 14-of-21 for 214 yards.
The Rams' first score was set up by a 65-yard kickoff return by receiver Tony Iacovetto. Seven plays later, Rams quarterback Zach Schaffner hooked up with Matt Iacovetto for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The extra point failed, but the Rams held out hope for an upset, down just 16-6 to the league-leading Tigers.
In the second half, the Tigers put together three consecutive touchdown drives that put the game out of reach.
Bruchez, Jesse Drennan and Whiteman scored in the second half to make the Tigers unreachable. Whiteman led the team in rushing with 94 yards on 18 carries.
Seth Copeland led Hayden's aggressive defense with 13 tackles, Isaac Haskins had 10, and Brandon Ford finished with seven.
Soroco sophomore Johnny De Costa scored the Rams' final touchdown in the closing minutes.
"I would like to congratulate Shawn Baumgartner and his team. They came in here and did a fantastic job, and we wish them the best of luck in the playoffs," Rams coach Gary Heide said. "I was happy. I think we did about as well as we could. There were times when we were in the game, but we let it slide, and they got the better of us."
The Tigers are expected to host a playoff game next Saturday.
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