H: Coy Letlow 17-120; Jake Walker 6-27; Russell Waugh 11-23; Mitch Doolin 10-11; Aaron Haskins 2-4.
GV: Cowan 14-149, 1 TD; Jon Lantz 7-46; William Waugh 6-34; Cain 4-18.
H: Doolin 3-6-0, 38 yards; Letlow 0-1-0.
GV: Cain 3-5-0, 58 yards, 1 TD; Jensen 0-1-0.
H: Waugh 2-25; Aaron Haskins 1-13.
GV: Jensen 2-58, 1 TD; Cowan 1-0.
•SCORE BY QUARTERS
Grand Valley 07-07-00-00-14
GV 0:18, Tyler Jensen 40 pass from Matt Cain. Michael Shepard kick.
GV 8:29, Colton Cowan 70 run. Shepard kick.
Steamboat Springs Grand Valley was armed with a couple of serious offensive weapons coming into Friday night's Class 1A Western Slope League football showdown with Hayden.
The Tigers knew they needed to stop Cardinals running back Colton Cowan - leading all 1A rushers with 175 average yards a game - and shut off talented wide receiver Tyler Jensen.
With the exception of two big plays in the first half, Hayden did just that, holding the volatile Grand Valley offense to its lowest point total of the season.
But Cowan and Jensen came up with those two big plays that made all the difference, giving the Cardinals two touchdowns for a 14-0 win.
First, Jensen pulled down a pass from Matt Cain in double coverage, avoided a tackle and took the ball 40 yards to the end zone.
Four minutes and two plays later, after the Grand Valley defense turned back the Hayden rushing attack, Cowan accelerated through the Hayden secondary to a 70-yard touchdown run.
Hayden looked to be running its offense, business as usual, on its opening drive. Coy Letlow's 29-yard run put the Tigers in the Cardinals' territory, but Hayden struggled to keep the Grand Valley defensive line at bay and continue moving the chains.
Recovering a fumble gave the Tigers another opportunity. But Grand Valley proved its dominance at the line, stopping Hayden from converting a fourth-and-one chance.
"We needed to find a way to move the ball better," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "They controlled the trenches, and that's where the game was won."
Hayden senior offensive lineman Garrett Murchison explained.
"They just wanted it more than we did and played better smash-mouth football," Murchison said.
Grand Valley was playing its final regular season home game of the season. The team grabbed the momentum and the lead after Jensen and Cowan's plays, giving the Cardinals a 14-point cushion going into the second half.
When Hayden struggled offensively - they opened the second half with two three-and-outs - they also began winning the ground battles. Murchison and Aaron Haskins ended Grand Valley drives with big, third-down sacks.
"In the first half we came out guns blazing and everything clicking, but in the second half, they were just more physical than us," Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson said.
Hayden orchestrated its best drive of the game with five minutes to go, driving 58 yards to the Grand Valley 10-yard line. But with hometown fans cheering as if the season depended on it and trailer rigs flying by on Interstate-70 blowing their horns, the Grand Valley defense held on for a shutout win.
Grand Valley (7-0 overall and 5-0 in league) can clinch a league title next week with a win at Soroco. Next season, because of growing enrollment, Grand Valley moves up to Class 2A.
"What's done is done, and we got next week," Murchison said.
Hayden (5-2 overall and 2-2 in league) heads to Rangely next week looking to keep its playoff hopes alive.