Baumgartner's boys

Success follows Hayden High School's football coach

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Hayden High School head football coach Shawn Baumgartner talks to punt returner Dave Gullett during practice Wednesday. Under Baumgartner, the Tigers have continued to perform above expectations. They host a playoff game Saturday against Sargent.

— Shawn Baumgartner's Hayden Tigers weren't supposed to be here.

The Hayden High School football team lost nine seniors and returned only five starters from a team that finished 7-3 and qualified for the Class 1A playoffs in 2005.

Simply put, the Tigers were supposed to be rebuilding.

But Baumgartner doesn't believe in rebuilding, and as the old adage goes, the Tigers don't rebuild, they reload.

So for the third time in Baumgartner's four years as Hayden's head coach, the Tigers find themselves once again in the Class 1A playoffs, this time hosting a playoff game against Sargent on Saturday.

Baumgartner shies away from taking credit for his team's success. Without the help from assistant coaches or players, Baumgartner said the Tigers would not be so successful.

"It's not a head coach that makes the team, it's the assistant coaches that make the team," Baumgartner said. "You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with. You have to get the kids to believe in themselves and their teammates. The last three years they've done everything we've asked of them, and they've been rewarded for that on the football field."

But considering Hayden's success, fans can't help but look at the top and the job Baumgartner has done.

The Tigers have an undersized offensive line, but they consistently wear down bigger opponents. Teams try to make them pass, and they continue to run. Opposing offenses enter the game thinking they can move the ball on Hayden, but the Tigers consistently dominate the line of scrimmage.

For Baumgartner, success in football comes down to something he's been doing his whole life.

Baumgartner played cornerback at Fort Lewis College in Durango and served as a student assistant for a year and defensive backs coach for another. He got his first head coaching job at Highland High School in Ault.

After four years in Ault, he became a graduate assistant for one year at North Dakota State University - one of the premier Division I-AA programs in the nation. But, somewhere in the process, Baumgartner got the urge to get back to the mountains. Steamboat appealed to him, and with an opening in Hayden, he jumped at the chance.

"He knows his stuff. He understands the game," senior linebacker Brandon Ford said. "He never goes into the game with one mindset. He's always making adjustments."

After serving as an assistant for a year at Hayden, Baumgartner took over the program in 2002. After having success in each of his first three years, Baumgartner entered the 2006 season knowing he had a young but talented team. He also knew this season would be the most fun he has had coaching.

"We told them we may have lost a lot from our seniors, but we're still a football team," Baumgartner said about how he addressed his squad early in the year. "Football isn't an individual sport. Each year you have different challenges you go through and different joys you go through. This is a special team with a group of kids that came together."

Baumgartner said he's been asked if he plans to leave the area anytime soon. And although he won't rule anything out, Baumgartner thinks he'll be roaming Hayden's sidelines in the future.

"I moved here for a reason," he said. "I love the school, the community and the kids."

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