Hayden football to host Coal Ridge today

Inexperienced Tigers ready to rumble

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What: Hayden vs. Coal Ridge football

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Hayden High School

— With only two seasoned starters heading into today's opening game against an ever-growing and improving Coal Ridge team, Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner would have every right to be nervous.

But that's not really the Tigers' or Baumgartner's way. Despite playing up in classification against Coal Ridge at 7 p.m. today in Hayden, Baumgartner said he has every expectation of having a solid game - and a solid season.

"For most of our guys, this is their first true varsity test of their high school career," Baumgartner said. "I'm anxious to see how they react to the first kickoff, the first possession, the first third-and-long and the first goal-line stand.

"They're a group of guys that have been together through middle school," Baumgartner continued. "We're mainly starting seniors and juniors. They've got a lot of playing time and experience together."

While Baumgartner will lean on returning starters Treyben Letlow and Jake Walker - who will see limited action after having his appendix taken out - the key might be how junior Graig Medvesk plays at quarterback.

Medvesk, who played in multiple games last year, is expected to lead a more balanced attack for the Tigers.

"I'm 100 percent confident in him," Baumgartner said. "We knew coming in, it was eventually going to be Graig's time. He is a smart kid and understands the game of football. He's a great athlete and the type of kid that makes a play happen."

The Coal Ridge Titans were a relatively new team when the Tigers started to play them several years ago. But the New Castle school has grown in size and experience, picking up a 16-14 win against Hayden last season.

That loss sent a Hayden team with high expectations to a 5-4 record and no playoffs.

Baumgartner said one thing he has emphasized to his team is that this is a new year and a completely new group of players.

But Baumgartner said last year does have some effect.

"The younger guys last year felt the disappointment in what we had," Baumgartner said. "They want to be the ones to get us back into the postseason. The work in practice the last couple of weeks has been phenomenal. I'm definitely looking forward to (today). It's going to be nice to line up against someone wearing a different color."

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