Tigers want to match pace with speedy Bears | CraigDailyPress.com

Tigers want to match pace with speedy Bears

Letlow has put up big numbers on gridiron in previous games against Dolores

Joel Reichenberger

— It’s not the size of the Dolores football players that has Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner sweating, just a week after his team’s biggest victory of the young season.

It’s the speed.

It figures to be a game of contrasting styles today when Hayden High School meets Dolores. The 1 p.m. game will be played halfway between the two schools, at Palisade High School.

“They’re not as big up front as they have been, but they are lightning-fast,” Baumgartner said. “We have to make sure we’re staying home on defense, otherwise they’ll just go right by.”

Hayden lost just two regular season games last year and avenged one of those losses last week, when it beat up on Grand Valley, 28-7. The Tigers uncharacteristically went to the air to win that game, choosing to go over a tough defensive line rather than through it.

Passing will still be important today, Baumgartner said, but Dolores presents an entirely different set of problems.

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The Bears have proven effective in running around the corner of the line early this season, and they pack some of the shiftiest backs the Tigers will see.

“We’ll have to be really disciplined,” Baumgartner said. “We have to contain on the edges and make them turn back inside to where our pursuit is coming from.”

Dolores went 4-5 a year ago and has been equally mediocre in 2008, entering tonight’s game with a 1-2 record. Longtime coach Don Story said his team has improved greatly from a 22-0 opening-day loss to Paonia.

The Bears let slip a second-half lead in a 26-19 loss to Bayfield, then bounced back in a big way, thumping Abundant Life Academy, 55-6.

“When we started out against Paonia, we weren’t ready to play yet,” Story said. “We just needed some time. We’re pretty happy with our progress now.”

Dolores’ biggest problem has been a young offensive line, Story said, but a pair of talented running backs has helped the team stay in all of its games. Tyler Berry is averaging more than 11 yards per carry, while Daven Valdez is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns last week.

They are elusive, quick and will have the Tigers on their toes.

Whether that size and speed proves an advantage or a hindrance on defense may decide the game.

Hayden’s Coy Letlow already is approaching 400 yards on the season, and Dolores is plenty familiar with his bruising style. Letlow had 152 yards on 22 carries when the teams met in last year’s 43-0 Hayden win.

He had 117 yards in a 21-6 win the season before.

Story said the plan is to gang-tackle him. If Dolores hopes for the upset, it will have to hang tight to Hayden’s biggest threat.

“We’re not very big, but we swarm the ball,” Story said. “We have to get a lot of people to the point of attack because he’s a good runner. We can’t stop him, but we have to hope to contain him.”

If you go

What: Hayden football (2-1) vs. Dolores (1-2)

When: 1 p.m. today

Where: Palisade High School, 3679 G Road, Palisade