Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Hayden In particular, it was Dan Engle I didn’t expect. In general, it was the dominating speed of the Hayden High School football team.
That’s what made the difference Friday night as the Tigers blew out the Rams, 49-7, turning what had the makings of an epic cross-county clash into a running-clock rout. Soroco came in packing a stable of fleet-footed weapons, but Hayden’s defenders matched it step for step. Even when Rams quarterback Nic Paxton could get off a clean pass — and that wasn’t all that often as the Tigers harassed the senior into two costly interceptions — his receivers were blanketed by orange.
That Hayden had the speed to go step for step with Soroco was impressive.
As impressive was Engle, who may have been the one key factor Soroco simply couldn’t account for.
Engle finished with nine rushes for 146 yards. He had one touchdown, and only two of those carries were for less than 5 yards. He was spectacular on those plays and on two punt returns for touchdowns that were called back.
He didn’t lead the Tigers on the scoreboard in stats. Senior quarterback Mark Doolin did that, finishing with 194 yards on the ground and a whopping five touchdowns.
Engle, a junior running back who stepped into the starting lineup in a big way this fall, provides the oh-so-valuable second option to Doolin, however, and that made a huge difference Friday night.
Even Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said before he saw it with his own eyes that he wasn’t sure Engle was ready to contribute like he has this season.
Going into summer camp, he wasn’t supposed to. A knee injury took stud returning running back Ryan Domson from “a top returning player” to “loudest cheerleader on the sideline.” One can’t help but wonder what this team would be like with both, but one thing has been made clear early this season, and especially Friday night against Soroco: Engle can carry the load.
Time and again Friday night, he stretched out the Soroco defense wide, then scooted up the sideline, gobbling up yardage like Pac-Man eats dots.
There were plenty of heroes for Hayden on Friday night, and Doolin and Engle just go down as the two who put up the biggest stats.
Together, the Tigers absolutely stuffed a powerful Soroco offense and left the Rams’ defense gasping for air.
Together, the Tigers took a huge step. They beat a good team, and they did so with such dominance that they made predicting the outcome of any particular play during the game fairly easy — far easier, in my personal opinion, than picking the game’s winner beforehand.
Whether Doolin, Engle and company were facing second and 15, third and 9 or fourth and 19, it felt like they’d find a way to make the necessary yardage. They were so good, so fast, it was easy to believe.
As I photographed the game, a Hayden fan hollered, razzing me about my pre-game pick of Soroco.
“Hayden can play with any team in the state,” the man said.
Indeed it can, thanks in large part to the fact it can run with any team in the state. Thanks to the outstanding Doolin and the eye-opening Engle, thanks to teamwide strength and speed, indeed it can.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com