Hayden’s Dan Engle breaks a tackle Aug. 31 against Belleview Christian. Engle scored two touchdowns in the 70-24 victory, which was Hayden’s first game in 8-man football. The Tigers look to capitalize on their momentum going into Friday's showdown with No. 1 Dayspring Christian.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden’s Dan Engle breaks a tackle Aug. 31 against Belleview Christian. Engle scored two touchdowns in the 70-24 victory, which was Hayden’s first game in 8-man football. The Tigers look to capitalize on their momentum going into Friday's showdown with No. 1 Dayspring Christian.

Hayden football preps for showdown with No. 1 Dayspring Christian

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— Last week was the Hayden High School football team’s introduction to 8-man football. This week, in the marquee contest of the young fall season, Hayden has a chance to introduce itself to the rest of the state.

Hayden, ranked No. 4 in The Denver Post 8-man rankings, welcomes defending state champion No. 1 Dayspring Christian on Friday. The teams play at 7 p.m. at Hayden.

“We don’t have any reason to not be” confident, Tigers coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “We wanted this game. It’s a good test for us to see where we stack up, since we’re new to 8-man, but also across the state with some good teams. You have to have some confidence going into the game.”

The switch to 8-man has been at times tedious. The field is narrower, the game is more up and down and the team with the best athlete usually has the advantage.

But Baumgartner said it didn’t take long for Hayden to feel at home with 8-man. This week, he said, makes it feel like football.

“We really enjoyed this week of preparation,” he said. “We’ve seen film, broke it down and prepared a game plan for the week. That’s what makes coaching fun.”

In Dayspring Christian, Hayden finds a team that’s coming off a state title and has proven itself as one of the premier 8-man programs.

The Eagles beat Genoa-Hugo last week, 38-8, and built a 38-0 lead at halftime. The team relied heavily on its running game, propelled by Drew Coggswell and his 116 yards on five carries.

Baumgartner, whose team burst onto the 8-man scene with a 70-24 win in Week 1, said stopping the Eagles’ running game will be paramount.

Still, in listening to Baumgartner, it didn’t sound like Hayden would be overwhelmed by the spotlight. The team has a history of playing top-ranked teams. Unfortunately, it also has a history of losing to them.

“We’ve never beat a team ranked No. 1 that we’ve played,” he said. “There have been three or four of them. We’ve talked a lot about it during the week.”

Considering No. 2 Akron and No. 3 Fowler meet up this weekend, the 8-man class already is starting to identify its top teams.

But the question remains, is one of those teams Hayden?

“I’m not sure,” Baumgartner said. “This level up in competition makes this fun.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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