Hayden football set for playoffs

Tigers hope to slow run-1st Pirates

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If you go

What: No. 9 Hayden High School football (5-4) vs. No. 8 Monte Vista (7-2)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Monte Vista, southwest of Pueblo

— The Hayden High School football team is back in the playoffs, and it’s to make it more than a one-game stay, Tigers’ coach Shawn Baumgartner said the team would have to be at its best for a 1 p.m. Saturday game.

The Tigers, the 16-team tourna­ment’s No. 9 seed, will open the playoffs on the road against 7-2 foe Monte Vista, No. 8.

“They have a really potent offense. They’re fast, scrappy, and they run hard,” Baumgartner said, summing up what he picked up from game tape. “They’re not real big, but they’re quick, so we’ll definitely have to hit them.”

Thanks to a second-place finish in the Class 1A Western Slope League, Hayden will make its first playoff appearance since its 2007 run to the state semifinals.

The Tigers went 5-4 on the season, winning four of their final five games to secure the spot.

Monte Vista managed to close the season on even more of a hot streak, winning the Southern Peaks League with an undefeated 5-0 record.

The team went virtually unchallenged through that slate, never allowing more than 15 points and never scoring fewer than 35. The Pirates have scored at least 40 in each of their last three games.

Hayden’s only consolation is that Monte Vista’s run came against a weak slate. The Pirates emerged as the only team in the league with a winning record.

They lost to Gunnison, a 4-5 team from Class 2A, and Rye, at 8-1 one of the top teams in Class 1A.

The teams’ only mutual opponent is Meeker. Monte Vista bested the Cowboys, 14-10, early in the season, and Hayden blew them out, 49-16, late.

None of that — the poor conference or the Meeker scores — has Baumgartner and his team feeling lucky, however.

“It’s not their fault they were stuck in a weak conference,” he said. “The game I look at is that Rye one. Monte Vista scored 30 points and played them really tough. That’s the most points Rye’s given up all year.”

Rye has averaged surrendering a little more than 10 points per game throughout the season.

The key to the Monte Vista attack is a powerful running game and a deceptive quarterback.

Senior signal-caller Beau Bradshaw leads the way and has confused defenses all season, passing just enough to keep teams honest, but concealing the ball well enough, run or pass, to baffle players on the field.

“They’re primarily a running team, and everything is based on the veer, off-tackle dive,” Baumgartner said. “They run it well, but they’re not big at all. They are little and quick.”

That consistent offense will help dictate what Hayden tries to do on offense.

Baumgartner said his team wouldn’t be able to afford any quick three-passes-and-out ser­ies against a team capable of milking the clock and piecing together a 13-play scoring drive.

Establishing the running game, a skill Hayden only has slowly begun to develop this season, could make the difference.

“It looks like some teams have been able to get behind them, into their secondary. If we can loosen them up, that will really help,” Baumgartner said. “But if we just come out slinging it and go three-and-out, we’ll put ourselves behind the eight ball. We have to watch that and hang on to the ball.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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