Hayden football coach Shawn Baumgartner is going back and forth about whether this year's Paonia squad is better than the team his Tigers defeated a year ago.
"I've been trying to debate that," he said. "They always have tough running backs. We were able to stop their running game last year and force them to pass. We will have to do the same thing this year."
Kickoff between Hayden and Paonia is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hayden High School. Friday's game is homecoming for the Tigers and pits two unbeaten potential league champions against each other.
Last year, Hayden traveled to Paonia and blanked the Eagles on their homecoming.
"I'm sure they are thinking about that," Baumgartner said.
Hayden (3-0 overall, 1-0 in league) got off to a great start in Western Slope League play with a 50-0 defeat of Rangely on Friday. Paonia (3-0, 1-0) also won its league opener, 26-9, against Grand Valley.
The Tigers' starters haven't played three quarters in a game this season because of their lopsided wins, but Baumgartner expects the starters to play 48 minutes Friday.
Hayden's starting defense has yet to give up a point, and the starting offense has outscored its opposition, 96-0, in the first half. The Tigers hope to turn the Eagles into a passing team Friday, but Paonia has the unenviable task of figuring out how to contain Hayden.
The Tigers are averaging 378 yards a game --82 yards rushing and 196 yards passing.
"We haven't been in that situation yet," Baumgartner said about being forced to pass the ball.
Judging by senior quarterback Keenan Bruchez's statistics -- 32-of-41 for 464 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions -- it might not be in Paonia's best interest to find out.