Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner points out a play Monday evening during a Tigers practice. Hayden starts its season Saturday with a trip to Belleview Christian.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner points out a play Monday evening during a Tigers practice. Hayden starts its season Saturday with a trip to Belleview Christian.

Tigers football hopes to overcome questions this season

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South Park game canceled

Hayden's previously scheduled Oct. 11 game against South Park was canceled because the Burros called their football season off in the face of low player turnout.

— A year ago, the Hayden High School football team was entering its first season of 8-man football with a powerful senior class. The Tigers were considered favorites in their league and weren’t shy about their state championship hopes.

Even this year’s Tigers — still confident, of course — admit things have changed.

Gone is the backbone of the team that plowed into the state playoffs. In its place, a heap of young athletes, many of whom saw scant action a year ago.

But that confidence remains, and when Hayden kicks off this year’s season at 1 p.m. Saturday on the road against Belleview Christian, it plans to begin a long process of answering doubters.

“We’re going to show them something,” senior running back Dan Engle said. “We have heart. We have a lot of heart.”

Hayden, 7-3 in 2012, will rely on a bunch of fresh talent this season, starting at quarterback. Senior Isaac Bridges takes over that position from 2012-13 Yampa Valley Athlete of the Year Mark Doolin.

A year behind Doolin, he hasn’t seen any varsity time under center, but played the position in junior high and early in high school and took the field a year ago at receiver.

“Taking over that role of being the leader, it’s a lot of pressure,” Bridges said. “Our offense will look the same as last year, spread out.”

Engle was the team’s leading rusher a year ago, gaining 826 yards and 11.47 per carry. He’ll be even more central this year, along with Greg Frentress, second on the team a year ago in receptions.

“We do have a lot of returning starts, but the dynamics of our team have changed,” coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “This team is actually a closer group of guys. We had more talent last year. Everyone knows that. But this is a closer-knit group, and I’m looking forward to that.”

As much of a challenge as anything else for the Tigers will be depth. A year ago, the team suited up 30 athletes. There were only 17 at the first day of practice this year. Six more have been added since, and there still could be a few trickling in once school starts.

That hasn’t done anything to stamp down the bravado. Whether it’s been in 11-man football or 8-man, Hayden’s been a regular playoff contender in recent seasons, and this group doesn’t plan on seeing that change.

“We’re small,” Engle said, “but we’ll hit you hard.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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