Hayden's Mark Doolin dives for the play Saturday against Simla.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden's Mark Doolin dives for the play Saturday against Simla.

Hayden's small stature doesn't prevent big win

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— When Saturday dawned, Northwest Colorado 8-man football teams had never won in the crossover round to earn a spot in the 16-team playoff bracket.

Hayden changed that in a big way Saturday, routing Simla to advance, and in doing so overcoming some of what has kept previous mountain teams sidelined.

The Tigers proved a match for the Cubs on the offensive and defensive lines, and that helped set up big plays down the field.

The simple answer to what’s kept mountain teams down against their plains brethren has been beef. None has been able to get past the grain-fed muscle that defines football elsewhere.

Hayden didn’t pull pounds out of its pocket Saturday to win. Instead, the Tigers matched Simla up front with smaller, quicker linemen, then threw over and around the Cubs for big plays.

Hayden’s offensive line of Jake Hockett, Journey Vreeman and Taylor Lewis were outweighed by the Simla offensive line by an average of 16 pounds per player, or nearly 50 pounds in all. Josh St. Clair also played up front, and weighing in at 180 pounds, he’s bigger than some of his teammates, but not by much.

That didn’t tilt the balance in the Cubs’ favor, however. Hayden still managed 167 yards rushing and found plenty of time to pass, adding another 165 yards there as Mark Doolin connected on 14 of 22 attempts.

“We really worked on pass blocking all week because we’d struggled with that,” Hockett said. “It showed today.”

The effect of Hayden’s dominance in the trenches was obvious early. Facing a Fourth-and-inches play near midfield, Simla decided to go for it. Rather than test themselves against the Tigers up front, however, they opted to pass. Quarterback Cody Norris ran a play action fake, then, with Hayden’s 160-pound Greg Frentress bearing down on him, he slipped and was down, turning the ball over on downs.

And on offense, the Tigers took advantage, most notably in the passing game. Doolin had seven touchdowns, four through the air. Three of those, all to senior receiver Aaron Cramer, were on plays longer than 30 yards.

“Those smaller guys on the line, they have more heart than anyone else on the team,” Cramer said. “They just go out and block, and they don’t care if they’re outweighed by a bigger kid.

“On our defensive line, Will Valora was an animal tonight. It was awesome to see him get in there. Those guys all went out and they played hard.”

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