Hayden, Steamboat meet for 7-on-7 | CraigDailyPress.com

Hayden, Steamboat meet for 7-on-7

Teams prepare for football season

Luke Graham
Steamboat Springs running back Jay Hanley catches a pass while Hayden's Coy Letlow defends Thursday at a 7-on-7 scrimmage between the two area schools.
Luke Graham

— The state quarterfinal loss to Limon still sits in Hayden assistant coach Bob Harris’ mind.

A young Hayden team was right there with a team that set the state record for consecutive victories. The Tigers were within a score at halftime.

But then Limon put 11 players in the box to stifle Hayden’s running game. And without much of a passing attack, Hayden couldn’t muster anything for rest of the game.

Limon scored two more touchdowns and defeated Hayden, 21-0.

But through experience, the Tigers have learned.

They know to be effective – and to compete with the dominant Class 1A teams on the Eastern Plains – they must develop a passing game. So that’s why Hayden players have been lining up 7-on-7 drills throughout the summer. They’ve scrimmaged Moffat County three times and Steamboat Springs twice, including a game Thursday evening at Gardner Field.

The drills focus solely on the passing game – something Harris knows could put Hayden over the top come the regular season.

“If we can get a passing game so they can’t do like Limon did and put 11 in the box, we could be real good,” Harris said. “You’ve got to throw. There’s no question you’ve got to throw.”

There’s also no question Hayden can run the ball. The team ran for more than 3,000 yards last season, including junior Coy Letlow’s 1,800 yards.

But what remains to be seen is if incumbent starter and junior Mitch Doolin can gel with wide receivers to make Hayden a more balanced team. Doolin, who went to a passing camp at the University of Colorado earlier in the summer, said the 7-on-7 drills are just part of a step to make Hayden better.

“It’s good to just get used to your receivers and stuff,” Doolin said. “It helps get the offense in sync.”

As important as it was for Hayden to find continuity with Doolin and the receiving core, the 7-on-7 was equally important for Steamboat to work on timing with two new quarterbacks.

With three-year starter Tanner Stillwell gone, Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said Thursday’s session gives Sailors quarterbacks Austin Hinder and Alex Wood a chance to see plays and understand reads.

“It’s a nice way to do that,” Finch said. “We’ve been doing it with Hayden the last three summers and it always seems to help.”

Finch said he has “a love-hate relationship” with 7-on-7 drills because Steamboat’s offense relies so much on play fakes and the running game and because the drills symbolize the beginning of the football season.

And that’s something everyone should be excited for.

“It’s a great opportunity to get guys around,” Finch said. “You’re trying to develop kids as much as you can.”

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