BAYFIELD – Wolverines fans have waited a long time for this. At 1 p.m. Saturday, the community of Bayfield will show the rest of the state exactly what it is all about.
Passion and pride are as synonymous with Bayfield fans as purple and gold. When the Wolverines host the first state championship game in La Plata County since 1968, as many as 5,000 fans or more are expected to line the fences, fill all seven sets of extra bleachers and line the hill on the east side of Wolverine Country Stadium to watch the showdown between Bayfield (12-0) and La Junta (11-1).
“I think it’s only a positive,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said of the number of fans expected Saturday. “There will be a lot of purple on our sideline and purple all over the place, really. Every person that comes out and watches us Saturday the 25th will contribute to the excitement of the game.”
When Bayfield hosted Durango on Sept. 22, an estimated 2,500 fans filled the 1,700-seat stadium. That figure matches estimates for a Durango game against Montezuma-Cortez in the early 1960s as the most fans ever to witness a high school game in Southwest Colorado.
“There definitely is pressure there, but once you get in the game, you don’t notice it,” said Bayfield senior Wyatt Killinen. “I expect people from Montrose, Pagosa Springs will be there, Durango, Ignacio, some of New Mexico and Cortez, not to mention everyone else from La Junta and Bayfield. It’s going to be huge. It will blow out the Durango game.”
Bayfield fans of all generations are expected to attend. Supporters are asked to wear their letterman jackets. Former coaches Marshall Hahn and Jon Keirns are expected to make the trip to Bayfield. Hahn coached the team in the 2011 state championship loss at Florence and was a key player of the 1996 team that delivered the first state title to Bayfield. He will travel from Arkansas, where he is an assistant coach on the Rogers High School team. Keirns, who is retired in Grand Junction, coached that 1996 team.
Former players from as far as Seattle are also expected to fly in for the big game. Kyle Killough, a captain and spiritual leader on the 2015 Bayfield state championship team, drove from Abilene, Texas, to Greeley overnight last week for the Wolverines’ 21-0 semifinal win against Resurrection Christian, and he will be at this week’s game with a pregame message for the players. Countless other Bayfield alumni and supporters will join him in the stadium.
Kevin Prior, another member of the 1996 state championship team, will watch his son, Bayfield junior Keyon Prior, play Saturday from his usual position on the hill outside of the stadium. Kevin Prior’s good friend and old teammate Jimmy Cundiff, who is the uncle of Bayfield junior quarterback Hayden Farmer, will join him.
“It’s even better for me as a father watching it happen than when it happened to me,” Kevin Prior said. “It was big then in 1996, but once you’re older and going through it and see the boys having this success, and seeing the town support them like it did back then, it’s even better for me now.”
The Bayfield team has repaid its loyal fans by winning – a lot. The Wolverines will ride a school-record 19-game home winning streak into Saturday’s game. Since Wolverine Country Stadium opened in 2000, Bayfield’s record is 66-23 at home. Since 2007, the team is 55-6 in home games.
Players from the Wolverines feel fans’ energy, and the fans supply plenty of it. Whether they’re shaking the stands on big third-down plays or belting out “WOLVERINES” before each Bayfield kickoff, the educated fan base is always there for the boys.
“Guys like Hunter Killough and David Hawkins, they feed off the crowd a lot,” Killinen said. “You see David and Hunter getting the crowd louder and louder. It really helps with the team’s play on defense when we’re trying to make it to where they can’t hear the snap count.”
Bayfield’s fans are so loyal that the team had more supporters at last week’s semifinal in Greeley than the host team Resurrection Christian. Those Bayfield fans traveled more than 800 miles round-trip to cheer on their team.
“We have a blue-collar atmosphere,” Heide said. “The boys that come here to practice know they have expectations and know they have the support to follow those dreams. One of the key ingredients when a young man comes to play football in Bayfield is that they know they have the support from coaches, fans, the staff and the community. When they go out on the field on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, they repay it by playing with a passion for this community.”