Hayden The Hayden Tigers football team has been on a mission to quiet the naysayers and earn the respect of its Class 1A peers.
The Tigers are well on their way to accomplishing those goals. They beat league powerhouse West Grand, 38-6. Then they took apart last year's 1A Western Slope League champion, Paonia, 34-6.
Next up for Hayden (4-0 overall, 2-0 in league) is Dolores, the team that bounced the Tigers out of the playoffs in the first round last year.
"We have something to prove to (Dolores), but maybe more importantly prove something to ourselves," Tigers coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "We can't be complacent and be satisfied with what we're doing."
This season, Hayden has dominated in every aspect of the game. The Tigers have outscored their opponents, 156-28, picked off nine passes - two of which have been returned for touchdowns - and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Offensively, the Tigers have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and have racked up 16 touchdowns from running backs Coy Letlow (10 touchdowns) and Brandon Ford (6).
"Our running game has been the bulk of our offense," Baumgartner said. "Coy and Russell (Waugh) have done a good job on the outside, and every time you give it to Brandon, you're almost always assured at least 5 yards."
Although Baumgartner said he hasn't seen film of this year's Dolores squad (2-2, 0-2), he knows them well from last year's loss. He said they still run a Wing-T offense and a 4-4-3 defense. And with most of their players from last year's team back this year, Baumgartner knows Saturday's game will be a test for the Tigers. Baumgartner said the game should hinge on which team creates big plays.
So far this year, the Tigers have done that.
"We gave up three big plays for touchdowns last year to them," Baumgartner said. "This year, I've been extremely pleased with our defensive play. ... We're causing turnovers and creating our own luck."
With a team of experienced seniors and young players gelling, Baumgartner said the attitude in practice has been positive all week and that he senses his players know it's the Tigers' turn to beat Dolores.
"It has been a business type of approach," he said. "A lot of that is due to the personality of this team. We have good leadership with our seniors, and our young kids have responded to that really well."