Bayfied made six trips to the red zone without scoring. The Wolverines lost two fumbles and two interceptions. It still wasn’t enough for Aspen to pull off an upset of the defending Class 2A state champions.
Behind 247 rushing yards on offense and two sacks on defense from senior David Hawkins, the top-ranked Bayfield High School football team found a way to beat a tough Aspen Skiers team 20-8 on Saturday inside Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield. The win set a new school record of 16 consecutive wins and extended the team’s record home winning streak to 21 games.
BHS (3-0) battled heat, injuries, penalties and offensive miscues as well as an Aspen team that proved last year’s 8-2 record and state playoff appearance was no fluke.
“I don’t know what caused so many mistakes. It was party because of (Aspen),” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said. “They forced us into mistakes. I won’t bring down our team at all. Give Aspen credit, they played tough, caused our mistakes and caused us to lose focus. They caused our concern. They came to play.
“On the same token, I’m happy with the way our boys hung in there and never gave up the fight. We hung in there, made plays in the second half to get a couple of scores, and we needed every one we could get. I want to thank my assistant coaches for always having a positive attitude the whole game and the players for not letting it get out of hand. Credit Aspen for causing that to happen to us. They’re a playoff team, and they’re gonna be good.”
Everything started fine for the Wolverines on a hot afternoon in Bayfield. After the BHS defense forced a quick Aspen punt, the Wolverines marched 72 yards in 11 plays and scored on a 9-yard run from Hawkins to take a 7-0 lead. But that would be the last score of the first half for BHS.
“Aspen is a great 2A football team,” Hawkins said. “We expected them to come out and have a battle, and that’s what it was. Adversity is all part of the game, and you have to work through it.”
Aspen (1-1) returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the BHS 36-yard-line, but the Skiers turned the ball over on downs to give Bayfield the ball on its own 34. Moments later, BHS senior quarterback Hayden Farmer was intercepted by Nick Spicer, who returned it for an Aspen touchdown. The Skiers went for a 2-point conversion, and Trey Fabrocini scored to give Aspen an 8-7 lead.
“Our defense did great,” said Aspen head coach Travis Benson. “We’ve always been known as an offensive team. The cool part about defense is that it comes down to warrior heart, and we showed that.”
BHS would turn the ball over on downs on the Aspen 3-yard line on its next drive, and the teams exchanged turnovers on downs until Farmer was intercepted again, this time by Noah Hollander.
Bayfield’s Max Mcghehey returned the favor and intercepted Aspen quarterback Tyler Ward on a fourth-down play on the BHS 19-yard-line with 3 minutes to go in the first half. The Wolverines again drove the field but turned the ball over on downs on the Aspen 18.
The teams went into halftime with Bayfield down 8-7.
BHS received the second-half kickoff and mounted a beautiful 14-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Alec Demko. Farmer was intercepted on a 2-point conversion attempt, and the Wolverines’ lead was 13-8.
On Aspen’s next drive, Bayfield defensive lineman Isaac Lorenzen recovered a fumble, one of two he had in the game, and all the momentum appeared to be on the side of Bayfield.
But Bayfield’s offense continued to make mistakes, and Aspen had more success moving the ball, though the Skiers’ offense would never find the end zone. That was thanks largely to the pass rush of the Wolverines, which repeatedly knocked Ward to the ground on nearly every pass attempt.
“I saw a lot of perseverance,” Benson said of his quarterback. “Bayfield is a damn good defense. Tyler is young, and he’s going to learn, but he showed a lot today.”
BHS would solidify its win when Dylan Hilliker broke a 36-yard run into Aspen territory followed immediately by a 31-yard Hawkins touchdown run, as he spun out a host of arm tackles to break free. Hilliker rushed for 75 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards.
Hawkins fought through multiple cramps during the game and played nearly every snap on defense while missing limited time on offense.
“Just amazing his fortitude and desire to keep pushing through fatigue, cramps,” Heide said of his senior captain. “I could see the fire in his eyes at halftime, and our team responded to him. They were not gonna lay down and get tired because things were going wrong. David and those linemen played hard. Rhett Hoover, Daniel Westbrook, there was a lot of effort going on. A lot of fortitude, pride and great desire.”
Each time the Wolverines would make a mistake, Hawkins would try to make up for it with a big run.
“I want it on every play if I can,” Hawkins said. “We come with that mentality of wanting to drive it down their throat, and I try to do that.”
Ward finished 18-of-34 passing for Aspen for 157 yards and one interception. The Skiers were held to 42 rushing yards.
BHS didn’t have senior corner back and all-around offensive weapon Keyon Prior in the second half after he suffered a right ankle injury. In the first half. Westbrook left the stadium on a stretcher in the fourth quarter with an injury to his midsection. The injuries were of concern to the Wolverines after that game.
“Of course there is worry with a teammate that is injured,” Hawkins said. “Adversity is part of the game. We’ve been here before. Guys are going to have to step up and adopt the mind-set of being ready.”
Next week, BHS will visit Class 3A Durango (1-2) in the cross-county rivalry game. Last year, BHS won the game in Bayfield for its first varsity win against DHS in school history. Hawkins and Prior were not able to play in that game because of injury. Heide said he wouldn’t risk Prior’s long-term health if he’s not ready for Friday’s game, but Hawkins is healthy and anxious to face the Demons.
I’ve been waiting to play that game since I played them two years ago,” he said. “It’s a high school football rivalry. You have to love that.”