Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo
When the Bayfield High School football team opens the Class 2A state playoffs Saturday afternoon against Trinidad, the Wolverines will know who to follow.
Just as they have for four consecutive seasons, the Wolverines’ option offense will follow the leaders up front – the senior-laden BHS offensive line.
The Wolverines’ running backs and quarterbacks have said it all year: from TJ Pazell (129 yards per game) to quarterback Matt Knickerbocker (44 yards rushing per game, six touchdown passes). Without fail, Pazell, Knickerbocker, Michael Hawkins, Allec Rodriguez and the rest of the BHS ballcarriers all credited the work up front for the Wolverines’ nine consecutive victories – and their No. 3 seed in the CHSAA Class 2A Boys Football State Championships’ field of 16 teams.
“They are all very intelligent young men,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said of the Bayfield offensive linemen. “Four of them are seniors, three-year staters. That’s a huge plus for us.”
Senior tackles Nate Goddard (6-1, 180) and Austin McMenimen (6-2, 190) anchor the outside; senior guards Kevin Donahue (6-1, 215) and Jon Roberts (6-2, 175) support the middle. And sophomore center Blane Barnes (6-0, 185) runs the show.
“He makes the calls up there,” Heide said of the sophomore center. “We had high hopes for him as a center. He became what we wanted him to be.”
Goddard is the taskmaster of the group – in practice, in the weight room and on the field.
“He’s a high work-ethic guy, a high-respect young man,” Heide said.
“The other thing (with the offensive line) is they only go one way,” the first-year Bayfield coach said. “When the defense is on the field, we can talk on the sidelines and make adjustments (with the offensive line). It’s a huge advantage.”
He said the offensive linemen and coaches can discuss alignments and execution possibilities while the Bayfield defense is on the field.
“They can see where they (opponents) are lining up ... how we can run,” said Heide, who guided the Wolverines to the championship of the inaugural Western League with a perfect 7-0 conference record.
The Wolverines, in the state playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, will open against another senior-dominated team – Trinidad (6-3).
“They are a very good team with a very experienced coaching staff,” Heide said of the 14th-seeded Miners, who will take on the Wolverines at 2 p.m. Saturday at Wolverine Country Stadium.
“They’ve got a good fullback and a good young quarterback,” Heide said.
Trinidad head coach Randy Begano’s Miners will run a version of the dive-option offense, according to Heide’s research.
Senior Chris DeAngelis, the No. 3 rusher in Class 2A, has gained 1,445 yards on 167 carries this year, good for 20 touchdowns. He trails only Austin Ekeler of Eaton (2,176 yards) and Tanner Zimmerman of Grand Valley (1,486) in 2A rushing yards.
Trinidad freshman quarterback Danny Martin has rushed for six touchdowns and gained 553 yards. He’s averaging 7.18 yards per carry.
Senior Devin Miller is the Miners’ leading receiver with 14 catches, including two touchdowns.
The Miners’ defense is led by lineman Brian Shaw (250 pounds), who’s averaging nearly 10 tackles per game.
Trinidad is returning to the playoffs as a wild-card entry after finishing fourth in the Tri-Peaks League behind qualifiers Florence (defending state champion), Manitou Springs and La Junta.
The Miners lost 40-21 last weekend to Florence in the final game of the regular season, and the Wolverines know what that’s like; BHS got beat by Florence in last year’s state championship game.
The winner of Saturday’s first-round game between Bayfield and Trinidad will play the winner of No. 11 Bennett (7-2) and No. 6 Faith Christian (7-2) in the state quarterfinals next weekend.
Other matchups in Bayfield’s half of the bracket include No. 10 La Junta (7-2) at No. 7 Platte Valley (7-2) and No. 15 Aspen (6-3) at No. 2 Eaton (9-0).
In the other bracket, No. 16 Strasburg (5-4) will play at No. 1 Kent Denver (9-0), No. 9 Brush (7-2) will play at No. 8 Manitou Springs (7-2), No. 13 Basalt (6-3) will play at No. 4 Florence (8-1), and No. 12 Middle Park (7-2) will play at No. 5 Grand Valley (8-1).
Bayfield has beaten Aspen, Basalt and Grand Valley this season.
The Wolverines beat Strasburg, Eaton and Brush in consecutive playoff weeks last season before losing to Florence in the state championship game.
“You have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Heide said of the 2012 football playoffs. “We have a lot of seniors ... we need to take advantage (of the experience).”
And the Wolverines are hoping for a big home crowd for Saturday’s playoff opener at Wolverine Country Stadium.
“There’s a lot of excitement in Bayfield with what happened at cross country (Eva-Lou Edwards’ state championship), with the band, with volleyball (hosting Saturday’s regionals) and with the (football playoff) game,” Heide said.
“We have to take care of the ball, of course. We can’t turn the ball over,” he said. “We know the expectations. We know this is a team than can win more games.”