A matchup of elite defenses will clash once more in a rivalry rematch a year in the making.
Durango High School maintained a century of dominance against the smaller Bayfield High School in a 14-6 overtime win at home last season – the first meeting of the La Plata County schools in 80 years. The game was a 6-6 stalemate going into overtime, with both defenses controlling the game.
This year’s matchup could be a similar story when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday in Bayfield on homecoming night for the Wolverines. Durango will enter the game ranked No. 8 in Class 3A with a 3-1 record. Bayfield will put its 3-0 record on the line as the No. 2 team in Class 2A.
“We can’t take them for granted even though they’re a 2A team,” Durango senior Gavin Mestas said. “That doesn’t mean anything. Classification doesn’t mean too much in a game like this.”
Bayfield has allowed only 21 points through three games while Durango has allowed 48 in four games, though 34 of those came last week in a 34-7 loss at Farmington.
“We have a lot of respect for Durango,” BHS head coach Gary Heide said. “David Vogt and the coaches there do a fantastic job with that team. We know the Durango football team that comes in here Friday night will be very focused and play with a lot of energy. They are a high-quality team.”
Both teams lost several key seniors from last year’s matchup, but both returned plenty of talented athletes with loads of experience.
Bayfield’s passing game has improved, as junior quarterback Hayden Farmer has thrown for 538 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions this season. But the Wolverines took a big hit in the running game two weeks ago in a 48-21 win at Aztec, as junior running back David Hawkins went down with a knee injury that will sideline him for at least a month.
“Of course we’re getting used to running the offense without David,” coach Heide said. “We did pretty well against Aztec after he went down, but of course Durango is a much better defense.”
Durango’s passing game has taken a step back from last season with Max Hyson posing a bigger threat on the ground than through the air. But the Demons have big playmakers back in Dawson Marcum and Gavin Mestas who can make big plays alongside Hyson.
This matchup likely will be decided on the offensive and defensive lines. Bayfield lost starting center Ian Nelson, who also suffered a knee injury in the Aztec game. That will put pressure on foreign exchange student Philip Delshammar, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior who never played football until the first week of the school year. Surrounded by four other seniors on the line,
Delshammar won’t have to look far for help. Still, the pistol offense of the Wolverines will require clean snaps in order to get the ball to playmakers such as Carl Heide, Hunter Killough, Keyon Prior, Dax Snooks and company.
“Our philosophy is still to be a power-run team,” coach Heide said. “Hopefully, we can establish that and then get things opened up for the speed guys and hit play-action and convert those big plays when we have a chance. Durango comes with a lot of different looks from what we’ve seen, and it’s really important for us to play our kind of game.”
As in most football games, ball protection will be of the utmost priority. Both teams boast strong punters with Mestas kicking for Durango and Ryan Phelps for Bayfield, so flipping field position shouldn’t be a problem when offenses stall. But a turnover, especially in a team’s own territory, could be the difference in the game.
The teams’ have faced one common opponent in Aztec. The Demons beat Aztec 35-14 in Durango, while Bayfield went on the road and beat the Tigers 48-21. Aztec scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter of both games that were largely dominated by the La Plata County schools.
Bayfield has won 15 consecutive games at its home of Wolverine Country Stadium. The school record is 16 set between 2011-2013. A win against Durango would be the first in Wolverine history, with the Demons owning a 14-0-1 advantage all-time.
“They’ve grown up playing against each other since they were in third grade when they start playing football,” Durango head coach David Vogt said. “All the kids know each other and it’s super fun for them to get out and play against the same guys they’ve been competing against since they were young. It’s bragging rights.”
Herald sports writer Karl Schneider contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org