Middle Park grinds up Hayden in 28-21 win
Middle Park’s slow style eats away Hayden’s big gains
Hayden — Seasons change with more urgency than the Middle Park High School football team’s offense operates.
And like the cold creeps into Routt County — slowly and depressingly surely — the Panthers overpowered Hayden on Friday night, knocking the Tigers off at home, 28-21.
The loss drops the Tigers to 1-3 before the start of league play next Friday.
“They’re a ball-control offense. They just pounded it,” Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “They were really good up front. We needed to get the ball back for our offense, but they just wouldn’t give it up.”
Senior quarterback Graig Medvesk tore up the field with huge pass plays, finishing with 236 yards through the air and two touchdowns.
Those plays served only as breaks between the monotony of the Panthers’ grinding running attack, however.
Middle Park lined up for every offensive down with tight ends flanking the offensive line in front of an eager pack of running backs.
That tightly packed phalanx powered forward play after play, bulldozing a path for backs Brian Macchione, Sam Little and Marc Schmidt.
“We had to get guys believing in (that style) and get rid of a bunch of older guys that didn’t believe in it,” Middle Park coach Troy Schmidt said. “That was a great, sound effort. All of our running backs ran hard.”
Macchione in particular proved elusive and tough. Shorter than much of his offensive line, he was difficult to even see as he ducked behind pockets of Panthers.
The Tigers were left to tackle everyone they could find until finally they got the guy with the ball. He proved so difficult to eyeball that even the referees often failed to do so, blowing one potential long touchdown run dead before Macchione had even been hit.
When he was hit, he proved just as difficult to stop as he slogged through tackle after tackle. Treyben Letlow led Hayden with 14 solo tackles and 7 assists, but many of those came as the Middle Park backs already were well down field.
“They were hard runners, and we were getting beat up front,” Hayden senior Ben Williams said. “The last couple weeks we have been getting beat up front. We have to get more penetration to stop some of that.”
Little broke free for a 14-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the first half to give his team a 20-14 lead.
Quarterback Johnny Stensvad connected with Macchione late in the third quarter for another touchdown, and after Macchione ran in a two-point conversion it was 28-14.
The same muscle that paved the way for Middle Park’s running backs stopped Hayden’s, with the major exception of a Ben Williams 41-yard second-quarter touchdown run.
Stuffed at the line, the Tigers put their hopes of a victory on Medvesk’s arm.
It almost worked.
Medvesk found Williams in the second quarter for a 25-yard touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 14-13 lead.
He completed huge passes to Letlow, Williams and Dayton Dowling on one drive in the fourth quarter, moving the ball 75 yards with five completions to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Letlow.
That play, a fourth-down pass that Medvesk slipped in over the middle to a thoroughly covered Letlow, left even the Panthers amazed.
“My guy was right there,” Troy Schmidt said. “He still got it in there. That was a great throw.”
The Tigers seemed to have brought a sword to a steamroller fight, however, and they could do little to stop the Panther machine as it laid waste to the clock.
Hayden had the ball for all of three plays in the third quarter and after an unsuccessful onside kick after the Medvesk-to-Letlow touchdown, the team could only watch as Middle Park ran the final five minutes off the clock.
The Tigers will try to turn things around Oct. 1 as they start Western Slope play at Paonia.
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