Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner meets with his football team Wednesday. They play Saturday in Parker against Lutheran in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
2011 Tigers football schedule
Hayden The Lutheran High School football team may be entering Saturday’s Class 1A first-round matchup against Hayden undefeated, but the Tigers have been scouring the Lions’ previous games this season looking for any weakness that could unlock a Hayden victory.
There have been a few clues. Lutheran has been susceptible to the run at times, and the pass at others. Front Range Christian — the only team to not make the playoffs that played the Lions close — carefully managed the clock and pieced together long drives.
There’s one similarity in all of Lutheran’s games, however — while some teams came close, none of them ever won, and that’s troubling for a Hayden squad that’s been hot and cold this season.
“They’re athletic, as balanced a team as we’ve ever seen,” Tigers’ coach Shawn Baumgartner said, summing up his study of the Lions’ game tapes. “They run the ball, but their quarterback is good. This isn’t one of those teams where you can say, ‘Stop the run, make them beat us with the pass,’ because they will.”
Resurrection Christian came within three points of knocking off Lutheran thanks to big plays in the passing game.
Lyons also was within three points, finding its success running the ball to the tune of more than 300 yards on the ground.
But it’s the Front Range Christian game that Baumgartner identified with the most. He hopes his Tigers can emulate it in the 1 p.m. Saturday showdown in Parker.
The game was close because Front Range established the run. Hayden hopes its vast statistical improvement in that area of its game late this season — the team rushed for more yards in its final game (348) than it did in its first five combined (346) — will bear itself out Saturday.
“That’s what’s helped us win the games we have,” Baumgartner said. “If we can get our running game going, that really opens up our passing game, too.”
Baumgartner said that running game may be the key to stopping Lutheran’s. After all, the Lions can’t score points if their offense is constantly standing on the sideline. Time of possession could be key, though the Lions have proven they don’t need more than a few minutes to score. The team is averaging more than 300 yards of offense this season, split evenly between rushing and passing.
Usually winning at Class 1A means deploying a devastating running game, and Lutheran has that, with freshman Christian Versteeg gaining 6.3-yards per carry this season and scoring 13 touchdowns. But it’s the passing of senior quarterback Marshall Grimmett — 1,410 yards and 12 touchdowns versus 4 interceptions — that’s helped set the team apart.
There’s a lot that has to go right if Hayden is to win its first-round game for the second year in a row, Baumgartner said. His team isn’t short on confidence.
“We’re still playing, and we’re confident,” Baumgartner said. “We belong. We earned the right to be here. All 16 remaining teams are good, and we think we are, too.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com