Hayden senior Chad Terry, 12, pumps his fist after the Tigers’ defense came up with a key goal-line stand late in Friday night’s 13-6 win against Paonia.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden senior Chad Terry, 12, pumps his fist after the Tigers’ defense came up with a key goal-line stand late in Friday night’s 13-6 win against Paonia.

Hayden football defense trounces Paonia

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2011 Tigers football schedule

— Distance apparently can have a distorting effect.

For instance, in the four far-flung road games that opened its season, the Hayden High School football team seemed to have a sporadic offense and a touchdown-prone defense. The team seemed destined for nothing special as it racked up three lopsided losses and one measly win.

What a mirage.

The Tigers who showed up Friday, when the squad finally got to play its first home game of the season, bore little in common with the reports that came in from the corners of Colorado. Friday’s Tigers were strong and clutch, decisive and committed. They were capable on offense and nothing short of dominating on defense.

Friday’s Tigers were winners, upending perennial league strongman Paonia, 13-6, to celebrate homecoming.

“It feels great. I don’t have any words to explain it.” Hayden junior Jake Hockett said. “It feels like a whole new season, a new team.”

Hayden, 2-3, couldn’t have been better on defense. The Tigers constantly broke into the backfield and blew up an Eagles option-based running attack. Despite boasting four talented runners, from speedy and elusive to strong and powerful, Paonia struggled to move the ball, and even when it did, it couldn’t punch through a Hayden defense that grew even more tenacious as its back neared the goal line.

The Tigers came up with a bevy of huge defensive stands, each growing more important as the clocked ticked away and the win felt closer. One came at the end of the first half, the Eagles clawing within five yards of a score before time expired. A third-quarter drive stalled out at Hayden’s 7-yard line while Hockett stopped another, picking off a fourth-quarter pass at the Tigers’ 20-yard line. That played ended a 17-play, 59-yard drive.

“We stepped up in the pockets and watched the ball,” said senior Chad Terry, who finished with a team-high 12 tackles. “That’s the best we’ve played by far.”

Paonia only scored by intercepting a Mark Doolin pass and returning it for a touchdown in the third. The Eagles managed to convert a pair of long plays as they desperately tried to get down the field with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. A few big Tiger plays proved just enough, and that drive ended when the clock ran out, with Paonia still 43-yards short of the potential tying score.

The result was one few predicted. Earlier this season, Paonia beat Grand Valley, 21-14, a team that in turn beat Hayden, 41-7.

“We got off the bus thinking it was in our hands because we beat Grand Valley and Grand Valley beat Hayden,” Eagles coach Scott Rienks said, his words seeping through his frustration. “Their kids were ready to play and ours weren’t.”

As solid as Hayden’s defense was, its offense proved opportunistic enough. The Tigers turned a first-quarter roughing the kicker penalty into a 7-0 lead when Doolin ran in from three yards out. He found Ryan Domson for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, taking advantage of a short field provided by an interception he brought in with his fingertips.

Doolin finished 12-27 for 119 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Hayden’s running game, meanwhile, managed only 31 yards on 15 carries. That proved a major problem in the fourth quarter as the Tigers tired

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