Hayden football coach Shawn Baumgartner, last season's Class 1A coach of the year, relays instructions to sophomore quarterback Graig Medvesk last week during a practice in Hayden. The Tigers open their season at 7 p.m. Friday against Coal Ridge in New Castle.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden football coach Shawn Baumgartner, last season's Class 1A coach of the year, relays instructions to sophomore quarterback Graig Medvesk last week during a practice in Hayden. The Tigers open their season at 7 p.m. Friday against Coal Ridge in New Castle.

Tigers aim to improve

Hayden returns 14 seniors, looks to build on 2007 season

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2008 Tigers schedule

Time Date Location

7 p.m. Friday at Coal Ridge

7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 vs. Roaring Fork

7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 vs. Grand Valley

1 p.m. Sept. 20 at Dolores

7 p.m. Sept. 26 at Paonia

7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 vs. Rangely

7:30 p.m. Oct 10 at Hotchkiss

12 p.m. Oct. 17 at Meeker

7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 vs. West Grand

— Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said he thought senior running back Coy Letlow might be the single best player in the Class 1A Western Slope League.

That assessment is hard to argue considering the bruising Letlow rumbled to first-team all-league and second-team all-state honors in addition to 1,349 yards on the field.

Still, Baumgartner said the Tigers' ability to repeat and improve on last year's state semifinal run may not have everything to do with Letlow's able legs.

"We're going to need to throw the ball better this year," Baumgartner said. "We did a lot of work this summer in seven-on-seven and worked a lot on passing."

Fortunately for Hayden, it returns plenty of experience in that regard, as well, welcoming back two-year starting quarterback Mitchel Doolin.

It was Doolin's arm that helped Hayden surge to within one game of the state championships a year ago with a quarterfinal upset of Byers.

Don't expect this year's Tigers, who kick off their season at 7 p.m. Friday at Coal Ridge, to be hard to recognize, however. The guts of the squad still will need to be a tough running game, Baumgartner said. That, combined with the added explosiveness of a capable passing attack, is the only way for Hayden to realize its goals this season.

The Tigers return six starters on offense and defense, including important cogs such as Letlow, Doolin and center Jake Magee. All three have logged plenty of starts in the past three years.

The Tigers will need all the offense they can get. In the team's three losses last year, it averaged just more than four points per game. In the nine wins, it averaged more than 32 points per game.

The squad will boast an all-senior offensive line, but Baumgartner said it will be important for the three new starters in the group to catch up fast. In addition, he said strong sophomore and junior classes should complement the 14 seniors.

Junior Jake Walker will get first crack at replacing last year's second-leading rusher, Russell Waugh. Walker certainly has the raw skills - he was fourth in the Class 2A 100-meter dash in the spring.

Sophomore Treyben Letlow also could be a major factor after he earned several starts at tight end late last year.

"Jake (Magee) played defense for us, but he was always that third back on offense. Now he'll get a lot more playing time and can step up to be an impact player," Baumgartner said. "Treyben, he started for us some as a freshman, and he's another kid who could really blossom through the season."

This fall's schedule doesn't do Hayden any huge favors. Soroco, which the Tigers defeated, 35-12, last year slipped down a class and off the schedule while a tough Hotchkiss squad also fell down a class, this time onto Hayden's radar.

The only consolation is the Tigers will get home games against both the teams it lost to last regular season, West Grand and Grand Valley.

That was all far from Baumgartner's mind earlier this week, however.

"The only game we're concerned about is the first one," he said. "Our definition of success will remain the same, and that is to go out and compete and give it our best. We still feel if we can do that every Friday night, we can walk off the field without having to worry about the scoreboard."

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