Steamboat Springs After a rollercoaster of a season in which the Hayden High School football team lost its league opener then dominated its final league game to get into the playoffs, the Tigers received some much-earned respect Sunday.
The Colorado High School Activities Association awarded the Tigers a No. 5 seed in the 16-team Class 1A football playoffs.
Hayden (7-2 overall) will open at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against 12th-seeded Sanford.
Sanford - the No. 2 seed out of the Southern Peaks League - comes into the game with an 8-1 record. Its lone loss was against Southern Peaks League champion Del Norte.
Hayden and Sanford shared a common opponent in Dolores. Sanford beat Dolores 53-27 in the final regular season game, and Hayden beat Dolores 43-0 in a non-league game earlier in the year.
Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said he knows little about Sanford, except that it comes from a tough league.
Baumgartner thought a second-place league finish would get Sanford a top eight seed and a home game, so he was a little surprised with Sunday's seedings.
"At 8-1 and with them at a 12 seed was more surprising than anything," he said. "They only lost one game this year by two points to the league champion."
If Hayden wins Saturday, the Tigers will face the winner of No. 4 seed Byers and No. 13 seed Sargent.
Western Slope League champion Grand Valley was awarded a No. 3 seed, and league third-place finisher Meeker was given a wild card spot and the No. 16 seed.
Akron is the top overall seed, while Limon received the No. 2 seed.