Kirk Malone is a big piece of the puzzle that completes the Bayfield High School football team’s defense.
Malone, a senior linebacker, is one of the smartest players on the team that will face La Junta for the CHSAA Class 2A state championship at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bayfield. He calls the defensive plays and has a knack for being in the right lane at the right time to deliver devastating hits.
“I laugh because there are two people who can complete my sentences – my wife and Kirk Malone,” said Bayfield defensive coordinator Mike Wnorowski.
Malone is a force on the field. Since his freshman season, he has gained 20 pounds and now stands at 6-foot-1, 260 pounds. Much of the size he has added is muscle. He’s faster than ever before and has no problem staying on the field for every defensive play.
When a collision at Wolverine Country Stadium is loud enough to hear in the press box, odds are Malone is the one delivering the blow.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world when a running back doesn’t see you and is looking downfield at the safeties,” Malone said. “It’s nice to feel a guy lose their breath. Bad luck for them.”
Malone’s numbers speak volumes about what he does on the field. He has 95 tackles and 20 tackles for a loss, good for third most on the team in both categories. He also has four quarterback sacks for a Bayfield team that leads the state, regardless of classification, with 51 sacks and 133 tackles for a loss.
“Kirk, he’s so smart,” said Cole Wood, one of Malone’s fellow senior linebackers. “With him, he completes us, I’d have to say. He knows every play. It’s impressive.”
Against Durango earlier this year, Malone had one of the best games of his life. He had 12 tackles, including two for a loss. He said the energy from the biggest crowd ever to see a Bayfield football game was a driving force for him, and he expects a similar shot of adrenaline this Saturday.
“Going out there in a special game like that, there was a lot of pride and heart riding on it,” Malone said. “You want to prove you’re the ones who can do it, and you want to go out there and give it your all. We got to go out there and show our heart and be the ones who came out victorious.”
Malone was set to be a key piece to the 2015 state championship team, but a knee injury removed him from his starting position and made way for Wood to see the field as a sophomore. Malone returned healthy the next year. Now, along with Wyatt Killinen and David Hawkins, the Wolverines have a top-level linebacker group 100 percent healthy with Malone leading with brains and brawn.
Malone plans on going into a pre-medical program in college next year. He is still weighing his options when it comes to playing football beyond this week’s championship game.
If this season has proved anything, it’s that Malone can play football at the next level if he desires. But Malone isn’t ready to think about any of that until after this weekend’s championship game.
“It’s going to be a blast. Nothing else like it,” Malone said. “With a defense like ours, you know you’re gonna go out there and get the same results every time. We’re all brothers, and we all have each other’s backs. When they come out and line up against us, it’s their’s versus mine, and I’m gonna take mine over their’s every time.”