The Hayden football team is playing for now. The Steamboat Springs junior varsity is playing for the future, and both took important steps in their respective directions during Saturday's game.
The Tigers open league play Friday against Rangely and needed to use Saturday's game against the Sailors as an opportunity to not only get a win, but also to practice and polish certain aspects of their game.
"There were things we wanted to work on," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "We wanted to work on establishing our offensive line and getting (quarterback) Keenan (Bruchez) used to making reads in the passing game."
Both were accomplished. Hayden went on to defeat Steamboat's junior varsity, 49-22, behind a balanced offensive attack. The Tigers' starters did not play the entire game, but when all 11 were on the field, they put together some impressive drives.
When the Sailors' junior varsity, a team that had 20 freshmen playing in their first high school game, faced the Tigers' reserves and second-string defense, they were able to move the football with ease, scoring all 22 points in the final 15 minutes of the game.
"This is going to be a heck of a varsity squad in a couple years," Steamboat coach Mike Powell said. "I'm very proud of how they played. They really came out and hit hard against a good, hard-hitting team."
Steamboat wasn't expected to win, and the Sailors might not have scored against Hayden's first-string offense, but Powell said if Steamboat had been able to throw the ball better -- three Steamboat quarterbacks combined for one completion in six attempts -- it might have helped open the running game up more and made the game more interesting early.
Hayden's varsity is made up of players who have been on the team for three or four years, including nearly all of its skill players, and the Tigers offered lessons to Steamboat's youngsters on how to perform at each position.
In limited action, senior Cam Whiteman rushed for 65 yards on eight carries, averaging more than 8 yards a carry. He also caught a 21-yard pass from junior Keenan Bruchez on the Tigers' first play of the first quarter.
Senior Jesse Drennan had a combined 78 yards rushing and receiving. He and Whiteman combined to score six of Hayden's seven touchdowns. The other score came from senior Evan Hilling's 19-yard interception return off a Nick Grant pass early in the third quarter.
"They run really hard," Sailors sophomore Westin Cofer said. "Their offensive line knows how to block."
But Steamboat's backfield and line were able to finish with impressive performances down the stretch. Cofer carried the ball 14 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He picked up 82 of those yards in the third and fourth quarters.
Sophomore Sean Forney rushed for 32 yards on 10 attempts and scored Steamboat's other touchdown in the final 21 seconds of the game. The Sailors' successfully completed two 2-point conversions, as well.
Hayden returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Rangely in Hayden. Steamboat's junior varsity plays Moffat County's junior varsity at 4 p.m. Sept. 20 in Craig. The Steamboat freshman team plays Hayden's junior varsity at 5 p.m. Monday in Steamboat.