The Hayden High School football team will get one more crack at Class 1A glory.
The Tigers, playing its final season of 11-man football, were selected as one of nine wild card teams for the 16-slot 1A playoff bracket released Sunday by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Hayden will square off on the road against Lutheran High School in Parker, likely at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re just happy to be in,” coach Shawn Baumgartner said.
The Tigers are the No. 14 seed, one of the lowest, but still something Baumgartner said serves a sign of respect for his team. Hayden won its final regular season game Friday night, blasting Lake County, 41-6, to improve to 5-4 on the season.
The team was one of four in the state to finish 5-4 and one of two to be selected to the playoffs. Sargent, also 5-4, is the No. 15 seed.
Baumgartner said he felt the dismantling of Lake County helped pushed his squad off the bubble. At least it calmed some of his nerves regarding the decision. Looking back, though, it was that cold Friday night in Hayden that likely made the difference — a win against Western Slope rival Paonia proving decisive for the second-consecutive year.
Hayden won 13-6 that night, hanging on in a white-knuckle game. The Eagles also ended the season 5-4, but weren’t selected.
“Getting that 14th seed, someone out there had some respect for us to get that,” Baumgartner said.
In Lutheran, his squad will find all the football team it can handle, and potentially quite a bit more. The Lions are undefeated and were the champions of the Metro-South league. They were the No. 3 team in the most recent Denver Post Class 1A poll, and are the No. 3 seed in this year’s bracket.
Lutheran is led by senior quarterback Marshall Grimmett and freshman running back Christian Versteeg, and the team has dominated its schedule with a balanced offense. The team closed with a crushing 57-8 win against Denver Christian, but locked up its strong season with tight wins the two weeks prior against Front Range Christian, 14-7, and tournament No. 10 seed Resurrection Christian, 37-34.
The squad also handed No. 4-seed Lyons its only loss, winning in the season’s first week and beat No. 12 Byers.
Knowing little Sunday afternoon about his opponent besides what could be gleaned from a Google search, Baumgartner already was plenty wary.
“I’ve never seen them play and don’t know anything about them,” he said. “They’re 9-0 and have some good wins, so they’re definitely worthy of that No. 3 seed.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com