No. 4 BHS pulls the chute to beat No. 5 Cardinals

Wolverines rally for a 5-point win in their state-ranked showdown at Parachute

Bayfield High School senior Alec Rodriguez gains yardage on the ground against the Grand Valley Cardinals during Friday’s game in Parachute. No. 4 Bayfield beat No. 5 Grand Valley 23-18. Enlarge photo

Kelley CoX/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Bayfield High School senior Alec Rodriguez gains yardage on the ground against the Grand Valley Cardinals during Friday’s game in Parachute. No. 4 Bayfield beat No. 5 Grand Valley 23-18.

PARACHUTE – Grand Valley quarterback Tyler Scott received the snap from the opponent’s 26-yard line and chucked the ball high into the air. Trent Reidle zipped up the left sideline and caught the ball maybe a step or two from the goal line.

Then came the official’s signal: incomplete. The 6-3 Reidle made the reception just beyond the sideline, and with no time left on the clock, bringing an end to a dramatic clash of Class 2A Western Slope League powerhouses.

The final: Bayfield 23, Grand Valley 18.

Behind 216 rushing yards and three touchdowns from bruising back TJ Pazell, the Wolverines remained unbeaten and took the upper hand in the chase for a 2A Western Slope League title. They’re now 5-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.

“I honestly thought we had it, just for that second,” said Scott, a 6-4 junior who racked up 138 yards and two touchdowns on 12 of 23 passing. “Seeing the ref wave it off just breaks your heart.”

For the record, Scott didn’t dispute the call.

“The referee did their job just fine,” he said. “I’ll agree with the ref.”

As for Bayfield, watching the final play unfold did a number on the nerves.

“There wasn’t a lot of thought, just reaction,” Pazell said after a deep breath. “This means the world to me.”

The Wolverines, last year’s 2A state runners-up, entered the game with the No. 4 ranking in the latest Denver Post poll. Grand Valley, now 4-1 overall and 2-1 in league play, came in at No. 5.

“They’re a tough team,” Pazell said. “We knew we were going to have to give it our all.”

Said Scott: “We thought it’d be a close, hard game. That’s exactly what we got. That was a lot of fun.”

Scott and the Cardinals put points on the board first, piecing together an 11-play, 83-yard drive off the opening kickoff. Scott and Stephan Padilla hooked up on an 11-yard touchdown pass to punctuate the march, which ran 4 minutes, 48 seconds off the clock. A failed kick left the count at 6-0.

It didn’t take long for a response from Bayfield.

Moving the ball efficiently behind Pazell, who carried the ball on eight of the Wolverines’ 11 plays, the Wolverines moved the ball 74 yards for a score. The powerful senior finished off the possession with a 3-yard touchdown run up the gut.

Early in the second quarter, the Cardinals cashed in on the first of three Bayfield lost fumbles with a 3-yard touchdown run by fullback Jake White, who powered his way across the line to close out a 50-yard drive. A failed conversion left the score at 12-7 with 8:22 to go in the second quarter.

Just more than three minutes later, Bayfield closed the gap to 12-9 with a safety when officials flagged Grand Valley for holding in the end zone.

Pazell covered 18 yards up the middle for a rushing score that delivered the Wolverines a 16-12 lead with 3:46 left until halftime.

True to the back-and-forth nature of the game, the Cardinals came right back with a blow of their own.

Scott brought an end to a 69-yard scoring drive by finding Reidle on a slant over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown connection.

Grand Valley’s kicking woes continued, though, as Bayfield’s Drake Rhodes blasted through the line to block the extra-point try to make it 18-16 at the break.

The defenses settled in and got stingy after halftime, with the Wolverines posting the only score less than three minutes into the third quarter on a 31-yard run by Pazell on which he was barely touched — if at all.

All told, Bayfield collected 345 yards on the ground. Seven different Wolverines carried the ball as they did what they typically do — run, run, run.

“It’s good to have fresh backs in there,” Pazell said. “We like to keep rotating them in there and keep our legs fresh to wear on the other team. That’s the triple option. You pound and pound and pound.”

Tanner Zimmerman led the Cardinals with 72 yards on 16 carries. White added 47 yards and his score on 10 carries, and Reidle finished with five catches for 67 receiving yards. Reidle also had an interception on defense as time expired on the first half.

Next up for Grand Valley is a trip to Pagosa Springs next week.

Bayfield will play host to Coal Ridge, which scored a 27-0 win over Pagosa Springs on Friday.

jcaspersen@postindependent.com