Photo by Joel Reichenberger
The Hayden offensive line — from left, Taylor Lewis, Jake Hockett, Austin Cless, Nick Williams and Brentt Gabel — has developed as the season progressed and has been a major factor in the Tigers’ push to the playoffs.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
- Saturday, November 5, 2011, 1 p.m.
2011 Tigers football schedule
Hayden Listen to coach Shawn Baumgartner talk about his offensive line, and the picture of what unfolded this season starts to come clear.
There are a lot of “thrown in there,” “pieced together here” and “rotated around” comments that come out.
The most important thing, though, is what has Hayden in the Class 1A playoffs for what could be the final time before the team moves to 8-man football.
“They’re a really big reason we’re here,” said Baumgartner, whose 14th-seeded team plays at No. 3 Lutheran Parker at 1 p.m. Saturday. “Really, with the team this year, they fit into what we’re trying to do. They are small and more athletic guys.”
With Hayden, that always seems to be the case.
Hayden’s offensive linemen, most of whom wrestle, almost always make up the slight end of heavyweight spectrum.
But somehow, Nick Williams, Austin Cless, Jake Hockett, Brentt Gabel, Taylor Lewis and Journey Vreeman get the job done.
It doesn’t matter that the six look like they belong in wide receiver drills; somehow, they’ve managed to get Hayden back to the playoffs.
“We’re always the smallest line out there,” said Williams, who along with Gabel represents the senior class on the line. “We’re always smaller than who we go against, but everything started to work for us.”
The way it all has transpired is just one interesting aspect of the team’s success story.
Juniors Patrick Cozzens and Will Valora were supposed to be two returning starters this season, but both were held out because of injury.
Without those two, Baumgartner immediately was forced to shuffle the line.
“We had to find out who could play,” Baumgartner said. “These guys stepped up for us.”
It didn’t all start smoothly for the Tigers.
The team limped to a 1-3 record and clearly was on the outside of the playoff picture.
But Hayden went 4-1 down the stretch and secured a playoff spot.
“Starting 1-3 wasn’t a very good feeling,” Hockett said. “We just really had to get a big push and come off the ball hard.”
It was the offensive line’s play that keyed the midseason run.
In the first four games, Hayden averaged just 82.5 yards rushing. During the past five games, the 4-1 stretch, the Tigers have averaged more than 220 yards per game rushing.
Now with an uphill battle of a playoff game on tap, Hayden will lean on its undersized group to again try and lead the way to an upset.
“Like everybody else, they’ll be bigger than us,” Baumgartner said. “They’ll be big and athletic across the board. But I’m confident in our guys.”
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com