Hayden High School football outplayed Paonia for the better part of three quarters Friday night.
Unfortunately, it was the first 12 and 1/2 minutes that decided the game.
Paonia scored three early touchdowns en route to a 24-19 win in both teams' league opener.
"Not good," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "It was an ugly first quarter for us."
Paonia scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, thanks to great field position and an interception. The Eagles also scored on the first play of the second quarter to put the Tigers in a 21-0 hole.
"We just were not ready to play from the get-go," Baumgartner said. "Defensively, we couldn't stop the fullback dive."
Hayden started to get it together in the second quarter. The Tigers got on the board when Mitchel Doolin found Billy Zehner from a yard out to cut the lead to 21-6. Paonia tacked on a field goal before the half to take a 24-6 lead into the break.
Doolin - who finished the game 13 of 26 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns - scored from 8 yards out in the third and then connected on another touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, this time to Treyben Letlow, to cut the lead to 24-19.
The Tigers failed on the onside kick, but they got the ball back with a little more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Hayden (3-2 overall, 0-1 in league play) fumbled on the ensuing drive, dashing any hopes of a comeback.
"Paonia is a good team," Baumgartner said. "They were going to come out, and we knew they were a physical team. They hit us hard (Friday). I think we can take out that first quarter, and we outplayed them for three. But we got in too big of a hole tonight."
Hayden returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Rangely.
Baumgartner said it is a critical week for the Tigers. With it being homecoming, he said Hayden will have to get through the distractions and get back to playing a more focused brand of football.
"We've got to refocus and recommit," he said. "I don't know if there is just one thing you can put your finger on. We have to come back and learn from this loss, make sure we're playing hard the whole week and start strong in the first quarter."