No two coaches in Class 2A have had a better run the last three years than Clint Buderus of La Junta and Gary Heide of Bayfield. While Saturday’s Colorado High School Activities Association state championship game will be decided by the players, the matchup of head coaches is notable.
Bayfield (12-0) will host La Junta (11-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state championship game. It will be the third consecutive year the two teams have met in the playoffs, with each team winning one of the previous two games.
In six seasons leading the Bayfield High School football team, Heide has amassed a 54-13 record. He is 33-3 in the last three seasons. Buderus has gone 69-37 through 10 seasons leading the Tigers, and he is 35-2 the last three seasons. Heide’s Wolverines won the 2015 state title after beating Buderus’ Tigers in the semifinals, and Buderus’ group returned the favor in 2016.
The similarities don’t stop there, however. Both coaches took over teams with rich histories but long state championship droughts. Bayfield hadn’t won a state title since 1996 and had come up short in the 2011 state championship game against Florence the year before Heide took over. La Junta hadn’t won a state title since 1958, and Buderus delivered the program’s sixth state championship in 2016.
Heide, 61, was a perfect match for the Wolverines when he came to Bayfield after serving as an assistant coach for the West Grand Mustangs, an 8-man team. Heide also spent time as head coach of the Oak Creek Rams, another 8-man team in Colorado, as well as the Hayfield Vikings of Minnesota for three seasons between his stints with the Colorado 8-man programs.
“I was really fortunate to land here when I did,” Heide said.
“The program already was stellar under Marshall Hahn and the coaches that were here at that time. They built a great tradition, and the community support stayed with us when I arrived. When you have community support and a winning tradition, it makes it a lot easier on my part.”
Heide replaced Hahn, who coached against Buderus’ father, Mark, in the 2011 championship game.
Clint Buderus is a third-generation coach, and his father had immense success leading Florence for 28 seasons before joining his son’s staff in La Junta, Clint Buderus’ brother, Ty, also is on the Tigers’ staff.
Mark Buderus played quarterback at Adams State and graduated in 1981. He took a coaching job at Norwood and led the school for four years. He beat the Butch Prior-coached Bayfield team three times in those four years. Mark Buderus then went to Florence in 1985 and won state championships in 2002, 2005 and 2011. The 2011 win was 34-0 over the Wolverines in a game played in Cherry Creek.
Clint Buderus followed in his father’s footsteps. He quarterbacked the 2002 Florence team to the title and would play at Adams State and go directly into coaching after graduating.
He landed at La Junta and has restored the Tigers as one of the state’s top programs.
“Each game we learn new things from our opponents,” said Bayfield defensive coordinator Mike Wnorowski.
“La Junta has a third-generation coach. He taught us a whole lot last year.”
Both teams will learn a lot from Saturday’s game, and two of the best coaching staffs in the state will pull out all the stops to win an ultimate tiebreaker game.
Buderus did not return a call seeking comment.