The Hayden football team is at the top of the Class 1A Western Slope League standings after Friday's win against yet another playoff team from last season.
Hayden (4-0) defeated Paonia, 27-0, in Paonia, leaving Hayden and Meeker as the only undefeated teams in the league.
Hayden's shutout victory came on the heels of a thrilling 34-33 win against Rangely on Sept. 17. The win featured a lot of offense and one huge defensive stand by the Tigers.
Friday's win also featured its fair share of offense from the Tigers and more than one defensive stand, after they recovered two fumbles and forced two interceptions.
Second-year coach Shawn Baumgartner said this was the best four quarters of football Hayden has played since he's been on the staff.
"Especially defensively," he added. "Our team tackling was tremendous. We were always driving them backward."
The Tigers had made it a goal to succeed the Rangely win with another win against as tough an opponent, and they accomplished that goal with a resounding victory against the Eagles on the road.
Baumgartner said Hayden stayed focused for the 4 1/2 hour bus drive to Paonia.
Neither team scored in the opening quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Hayden scored two touchdowns within 30 seconds. The Tigers' first score came on a 20-yard pass from junior quarterback Keenan Bruchez to senior receiver Evan Hilling.
Paonia fumbled the subsequent kickoff, and senior Jesse Drennan recovered it. Drennan followed the special teams play with the first of his two touchdowns on an 8-yard run at the 6:05 mark of the second quarter.
He added his second and 12th of the season, 9:18 into the third quarter.
Hayden's final score came with 10:45 to go in the fourth when Bruchez found senior Chris Frentress on a 30-yard pass play.
Frentress wound up with 103 yards on seven receptions. He hadn't caught a pass before Friday night.
Baumgartner said Paonia's secondary was playing deep, and Hayden took advantage of what Paonia left them on offense. Bruchez wound up 18-of-32 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We had other guys underneath open, and that was what we were keying on," Baumgartner said.
Hilling caught five passes for 107 yards. Junior Tyson Letlow caught two passes for 33 yards. Drennan had three receptions for 20 yards, and senior Cam Whiteman had one catch for 12 yards.
Paonia held Hayden to 78 yards rushing, but Hayden held Paonia to 142 yards in total offense. Most of Paonia's 88 passing yards came in the fourth quarter as it made a feeble attempt to climb back in the game.
Hayden will try to remain undefeated when it hosts Plateau Valley (0-4) in a 7:30 p.m. game Friday at Hayden High School. It is the Tigers' homecoming game. The Tigers have not beaten the Cowboys in two years.