Before the 2016 season, the defending champion Bayfield High School football team was expected to experience a few growing pains with focus shifting toward another potential state title run in 2017. The Wolverines never took a step back in 2016, competing until the final whistle in a 14-13 loss in the state semifinals against eventual champion La Junta.
“Every practice, we remember it,” senior Hunter Killough said of the loss to La Junta. “We’re trying to get the sick feeling out of our stomachs. We can’t wait until next Friday when we get to push all those feelings out.”
The 2017 season has arrived, and expectations are only elevated for a Wolverines team with 35 upperclassmen including a loaded junior class of 20 top-notch athletes. Bayfield entered the Colorado High School Activities Association poll ranked second in Class 2A behind Kent Denver and one spot ahead of La Junta.
The Wolverines boasted the top defense in Class 2A a year ago and are as talented defensively going into this season. Adding to a full arsenal of offensive weapons, BHS is a team that will give opponents plenty to prepare for this season.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” BHS head coach Gary Heide said. “We’re not big on predictions as coaches, but I just think we’re one of the teams that can make a run deep into the playoffs. We have a very tough non-conference schedule, and to get where we want to go we have to play very well in conference. We have to shoot to win the conference and hopefully be set up better for the playoffs, if we’re fortunate enough to make it.”
BHS went 9-3 a season ago and 5-0 in the Class 2A Intermountain League. The Wolverines will play five of nine regular-season games at home this season. The Wolverines are 20-3 in regular-season games during Heide’s tenure and 8-0 the last two seasons.
“Homes games in Bayfield are very motivating for us,” junior quarterback Hayden Farmer said. “We’re hometown kids playing in front of our home crowd, and it’s tough to beat us in front of our home crowd.”
Farmer served as Bayfield’s backup quarterback last season and appeared in 10 of the team’s 12 games. He went 22-of-35 passing for 367 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a strong arm and has shown Heide and the coaching staff a lot of maturation.
“Hayden has done a great job all summer,” Heide said. “He had a great camp at CSU-Pueblo and showed his leadership skills, athletic ability and command of the field.”
The Wolverines also will have a wildcat offensive package in which Killough lines up at quarterback. It’s another way to get the ball in the hands of so many weapons along with bruising running back David Hawkins, a balanced runner in Carl Heide and speedy slash players Keyon Prior and Dax Snooks.
“Coach is spreading the ball around really good,” Killough said. “Our biggest thing is still the power game with David, but we’re working the wings more this year. The passing game, too. Our quarterback has a real good arm.”
Hawkins rushed for 1,001 yards in 2016. He racked up 13 touchdowns, carrying defenders on his back most of the time.
“Not only is David a humble young man, he’s a great leader,” Heide said. “He doesn’t take his athleticism for granted. It’s a thrill to have somebody like that at a small school. Hopefully we do well enough everyone can see his talent.”
The Division I prospect also is stout on defense as an outside linebacker opposite of Wyatt Killinen. Heide said Hawkins is a force who will dominate the strong side linebacker position.
“I think this defense this year is going to be something incredible,” Hawkins said. “We lost some great players like Sam, Jesse and Josh Westbrook, but we have kids this year with a lot of experience under their belts who came in ready to go.”
Ryan Phelps and Michael Kirk make a formidable duo at the defensive end positions. Phelps led the team a season ago with 13 sacks. Killough said Isaac Lorenzen also has been a big addition at nose guard.
Kirk Malone will call the defense at middle linebacker alongside the highly-talented Cole Wood. Killough led the team with 121 tackles last season, and Wood was second with 90.
The Wolverines will kick off the 2017 season at 7 p.m. Friday inside Wolverine Country Stadium against a San Juan team from Blanding, Utah, that beat BHS 19-0 in the season opener a year ago. Another key game will come Sept. 22 at home against La Plata County rival Durango. Bayfield lost at Durango 14-6 in overtime last season in the first matchup of the two varsity teams in 80 years. Bayfield has never beat Durango in a varsity football game.
“We’re completely focused on San Juan,” Heide said. “We do know we have Durango for homecoming. As a coach, maybe I didn’t like that. I would’ve thought a different date, but I know why it had to happen with the schedule the way it is. We’ll focus on San Juan, and that sets the stage. If we’re fortunate enough to play well in the weeks prior, Durango will take care of itself.”