There's a reason Tim Taylor wasn't a member of last year's Hayden football team.
He was going to school in Steamboat Springs.
But Taylor transferred back to Hayden High School and rejoined the Tigers for his senior year. After an 80-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a blocked punt, which led to an eventual touchdown, Taylor is officially in a football frame of mind.
"It's hard coming back after a year off, but I'm really enjoying it," Taylor said.
He has been a welcome addition to a Tigers squad trying to repeat as Western Slope League champions, as well. On Thursday, Hayden got off to a strong start with a 41-6 victory against Moffat County's junior varsity program.
The Bulldogs did not get past midfield or earn a first down against the Tigers' starting defense. Moffat County did not score until the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
"Our defense played really well," Tigers coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "I was really surprised how well the young guys played."
The first and second strings combined to force five turnovers -- three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
It was an impressive showing for a season opener. Hayden faced Moffat County's junior varsity team, but the Bulldogs brought a large contingent of juniors for Thursday's game in Hayden.
"We have (defensive) team goals," said Taylor, a defensive lineman. "Our goals are stopping yards, stopping long drives and forcing turnovers."
Before the game, Baumgartner said the defense will be a strength this season, but it was hard not to be impressed with the Tigers' offense Thursday.
Although Hayden didn't put up huge offensive stats -- 119 rushing yards and 181 passing yards -- most of that was in the first half with the offensive starters in the game.
Senior quarterback Keenan Bruchez was an efficient 12-of-15 for 146 yards and three scores. Tyson Letlow caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Tyson Sweetser caught the other. Bruchez also led the team with 76 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Junior Brandon Ford, back at running back after a one-year hiatus, had 50 yards on six carries with a 1-yard touchdown run. All of Hayden's offensive touchdowns came in the first half.
The Tigers' one second-half score was Taylor's fumble recovery early on.
The one thing that stood out to Baumgartner, offensively, was the emergence of a third threat at receiver. Letlow and Sweetser are proven veterans, but everyone else has minimal career receptions. Junior Dave Gullett had one reception for 8 yards Thursday, but he had a touchdown called back on a penalty. When the ball went his way, the 5-foot-11 Gullett caught it.
"Dave stepped it up," Baum--gartner said.
Hayden hasn't started school yet, but the Tigers undoubtedly will be getting a lecture at today's practice. Hayden amassed 155 yards in penalties.
Hayden (1-0) will face Steamboat's junior varsity at 1 p.m. Sept. 10 at Gardner Field in Steamboat Springs.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org