Hayden High varsity beats Steamboat JV

Hayden quarterback Keenan Bruchez doesn't make the play calls, but coach Shawn Baumgartner trusts the sophomore to make the correct reads on a thick playbook that expanded in the offseason.

Though the Tigers have had less than two months to learn the new coach's schemes, they continue to execute them relatively well so early in the season, defeating the Steamboat Springs junior varsity team 28-8 on Saturday.

While Hayden played an uninspired final 24 minutes of football Saturday, the Tigers (2-0) looked sharp on offense and defense in the game' first half against the Sailors JV team (1-1).

All four of Hayden's touchdowns came in the first and second quarters, via the legs or arm of Bruchez.

The Tigers scored their first touchdown midway through the first quarter on Bruchez's 31-yard rush. In the first half, Bruchez had 100 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.

"Keenan made great reads on the option," Baumgartner said. "They were taking away our pitch man."

The Sailors' refusal to allow Bruchez to throw the ball to one of his backs allowed holes to open up toward the middle of the field, giving Bruchez more than enough room to gain 138 yards on 14 carries. He left the game in the fourth quarter.

Hayden junior Cam Whiteman contributed 80 yards on 13 carries before exiting the game early as well.

The Tigers also continue to display a passing game they will need against league opponents that are quicker and more experienced than the JV players Hayden faced in its first two weeks.

On Saturday, Bruchez was 6-of-11 for 170 yards, including a 79-yard scoring strike to sophomore Tyson Letlow.

The freshman and sophomore defensive backs on Steamboat's JV team had difficulty matching the speed and height of Hayden receivers. Letlow, Tyson Sweetser and Evan Hilling are all athletic, 6-foot-1 receivers, and all three have at least one year of varsity experience as well.

The Sailors managed one impressive drive in the first half Saturday. Starting at its own 32-yard line, Steamboat moved the ball down to Hayden's 25. Sophomore running backs Walker Hammond and Scott Stanko helped move the chains for the Sailors before a fumble on a bad pitch ended the drive.

The Tigers took over on their own 31 with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter and scored at the outset of the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Bruchez to Sweetser. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

Both teams came out in the second half and had difficulty sustaining drives.

"We executed well in the first half," Bruchez said. "But we weren't that fired up in the second."

The JV Sailors had difficulty moving the ball against a varsity defense. Heading into the game, coach Aaron Finch reminded his younger players not to make the opponent seem to big, freshman Tanner Stillwell said.

And the Sailors didn't seem timid or intimidated. Steamboat's freshmen and sophomores just weren't as experienced.

When both teams had their underclassmen on the field in the fourth quarter Saturday, Steamboat moved the ball with relative ease, scoring its lone touchdown with 2:14 left in the game.

Hammond and Stanko each carried the ball for a first down on the Sailors' scoring drive, picking up a combined 33 rushing yards before Stillwell found Clay Whiddon in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard reception.

Whiddon had the ball in his hands, bobbled it high into the air but regained control for the score. Tanner Grimes carried the ball across the goal line on the conversion.

"I think overall we played well," Stillwell said. "Our running backs did really well."

Stillwell added that the biggest difference between a varsity opponent and a JV opponent is watching the development of a play from all angles on the field. Linemen, backs and receivers all have an assignment on every play, and when the varsity players need to block, they get it done.

Steamboat's JV plays Hayden's JV at 4:30 p.m. Monday in Hayden.

Hayden's next game is against Paonia at 1 p.m. Saturday in Hayden. The game is the Tigers' league opener.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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