- Friday, October 26, 2007, 7 p.m.
- Hayden High School, 495 W. Jefferson Ave., Hayden, CO
Hayden For the second year in a row, the Hayden Tigers football season comes down to the team's final regular season game against Meeker.
Last year, both teams were tied for second place in the Class 1A Western Slope League standings when the Tigers pulled off an impressive 21-0 win on the road to lock in a postseason berth. Meeker's loss put its playoff fate in the hands of a wild card selection committee, but with a solid 7-2 record, the Cowboys earned one of four extra tickets into the 16-team bracket.
When the two teams face off this year on the Tigers' turf - kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. today - Hayden will be faced with even more pressure to perform.
Not only do the Tigers need a win for a shot at the playoffs, they need to win by six points or more to guarantee a favorable wild card position - in other words, a third-place spot ahead of West Grand.
Playoff spots are only guaranteed for the league's top two teams. Grand Valley has locked the league title, and Meeker (4-1 in league) is poised to take second.
And because of Hayden's 13-point loss to West Grand on Sept. 14, West Grand has the head-to-head edge if Hayden and West Grand lose tonight. Hayden (3-2 in league, 6-2 overall) likely would not earn a wild-card berth with a third league loss and a fourth-place finish.
Here's the tricky part.
If both Hayden and West Grand win tonight, those teams as well as Meeker would share 4-2 league records - meaning point differentials would make all the difference in the three-way tie.
Because of those point differentials, a big Tigers win - by 18 points or more - could earn Hayden the league's No. 2 spot and a guaranteed postseason berth.
"Really, to guarantee a playoff spot, it is a must-win," Hayden football coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "We can't get caught up in the points, we just have to go out and win the ball game."
Both teams are coming off key league wins. Hayden came back to win 40-24 at Rangely last week while Meeker beat Paonia, 36-20.
Baumgartner said the Hayden defense would have to be in top form to stop a balanced, powerful running game anchored by Meeker running backs Bubby Mazzola and Mitch Jacob, along with fullback Tyler Gerloff.
Hayden lost fullback Zathan Bark in the Rangely game, to a broken fibula on a 15-yard carry, but is otherwise firing on all cylinders entering its final home game of the regular season.
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