An era came to an end Saturday for the Bayfield High School football program.
The Wolverines saw their Class 2A dynasty come to a close with a 21-13 loss to Faith Christian in the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A State Football Playoffs quarterfinals. The loss in Arvada snapped Bayfield’s streak of three consecutive trips to at least the semifinals, and the Wolverines had won two of the last thee state championships with victories in 2015 and 2017.
After three consecutive comeback wins in the team’s previous games, the magic ran out Saturday.
“Our boys were fantastic all year,” BHS head coach Gary Heide said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’ll remember those last four games we played forever. Sure, we came up short in this one, but it was one great season.”
Bayfield (8-2) will lose a class of 19 seniors, including superstar talents such as quarterback Hayden Farmer, running back and linebacker David Hawkins, nose guard Isaac Lorenzen and all-around playmaker Keyon Prior. The Wolverines also will lose linemen such as Spencer Funke, Rhett Hoover and Daniel Westbrook.
“It’s hard to let go. I really do love these guys,” Heide said. “They played their hearts out for four years. They’ve been a huge part of our program, and it’s hard to see them go. Their football career at Bayfield is over. Them and their families have given so much to Bayfield football. It can never be replaced or forgotten.”
It is possible Bayfield will also lose a bulk of its coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Mike Wnorowski, who orchestrated a historic defense in 2017 and came on board for the team’s 2015 title run, will see his son, Eli Monyek, graduate from this year’s team. Line coach Frank Hawkins also has said this would be his last year coaching, as his son will graduate in the spring and go on to play college football.
Heide’s twin sons graduated from Bayfield last spring. He has won 63 games in seven seasons and trails only Butch Prior in career wins at BHS, as Prior had 71 wins in 17 seasons from 1972-88. Heide said nothing would be announced until the team’s award banquet to wrap up the season later next week, but he thanked his coaching staff for helping in the team’s success after Saturday’s loss.
“I would never have been here without Wnorowski,” Heide said. “I wouldn’t be in this spot without him and his leadership and help on defense. Not only that, but Frank Hawkins has been here since his boys were in third-grade. He’s given his heart and soul every minute. Without all of our coaches, we wouldn’t be here. I love them for it.”
An up-and-coming Faith Christian Eagles team (9-2) took it to a Bayfield defense that was so formidable under the guidance of Wnorowski since 2015. Quarterback Isaiah Kroll, a junior, orchestrated long scoring drives that ate up much of the game clock Saturday. In the first half, the Eagles had a pair of long drives.
The Eagles scores first with 6:16 to play in the first quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kroll to star receiver Jordan Abbott. Kroll had time to throw behind his offensive line, and he delivered a perfect pass over the coverage of Bafield’s Crosby Edwards to find his top receiver to end an 11-play drive that consumed 4:55 of clock.
Bayfield answered right back with an 11-play drive of its own. Farmer would score on a 5-yard run on fourth down, and Trenton Harrison added the extra point to tie the game with 55 seconds to play in the first quarter. The drive was extended thanks to a big pass interference call against the Eagles on a third-and-5 pass from the Wolverines.
Faith Christian again marched down the field on its second possession. The Wolverines forced a key fourth-and-7 from the Bayfield 26, and Kroll ran a play-action pass and found a wide-open receiver on the sideline for a gain of 9. One play later, Kroll hit tight end Brian Turner on a 17-yard touchdown pass, as a Bayfield defender had slipped to leave Turner wide open. Jon Randall made his second extra point of the day, and the Eagles took a 14-7 lead in the middle of the second quarter.
“We didn’t capitalize on third downs. We were poor at that today,” Heide said. “They had some real thick running backs that kept getting 4 and 5 yards t get those first downs, and their quarterback made big plays. They had a good-sized line.”
Bayfield tried to answer before halftime, but a drive stalled inside the Faith Christian 20, as Farmer was sacked twice in a row to turn it over on downs on the Eagles’ 44-yard line. The teams went into half with Faith Christian up 14-7.
The score would remain that way until the fourth quarter. Prior had an interception on defense for Bayfield in the third quarter on the Eagles’ first drive of the half.
Bayfield’s attempt to tie the game failed when the Wolverines tried a double-reverse on fourth down inside the Eagles’ 20. The pitch from speedy junior Dylan Hilliker to Prior was fumbled in the backfield, and the Eagles returned it all the way to midfield. Faith Christian would start on its own 33 after a penalty on the fumble return.
Bayfield’s defense forced the first Faith Christian punt of the game early in the fourth quarter. But the game changed for good when the Wolverines got the ball back.
Farmer was sacked inside his own 10 to set up third-and-13. Under pressure again, Farmer was intercepted by Abbott, who returned it for a Faith Christian touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 9:44 to play. Farmer finished the game 9-of-20 passing for 167 yards and the interception.
“They had good-sized defensive ends that created havoc for us,” Heide said. “We didn’t have a chance in the pass game because of their D-line.”
The Wolverines couldn’t get anything going on their next drive and punted it away with 8:20 to play. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs with 2:56 to play, and Bayfield had the ball on its own 28. After Farmer was nearly intercepted and then had to take a timeout that tested the emotions of the Wolverines’ players, he hit Hawkins on a 10-yard pass that Hawkins turned into a gain 69 yards, as he broke through tackles and ran up the Bayfield sideline before being taken down at the 3-yard line. One play later, Hawkins scored on a 3-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, and the deficit was only 21-13.
Hawkins finished with 65 yards rushing on 15 carries to go with his one big reception.
Bayfield couldn’t get the onside kickoff, but it would get the ball back to the offense one more time. Faith Christian punted with 43 seconds to play. Hilliker had a decent return, but it was negated on a block in the back penalty. Still, the Wolverines had the ball on their own 12 with 32 seconds to play but no timeouts.
Bayfield tried a double pass. Farmer got the ball to Prior, who ran around in his own end zone looking for an open receiver. He eventually passed to Farmer, who was brought down immediately behind the line of scrimmage. Bayfield hurried to the line and got one more snap off, but an incomplete pass ended the game and sent Faith Christian to the semifinals.
“We didn’t quit to the bitter end,” Heide said. “The touchdown by (Hawkins), we really felt good and thought we’d get an onside kick. We didn’t get it.
“I’ll always remember this year as a stellar year, a great Intermountain League champion that made it to the quarterfinals.”
The Eagles will host No. 4 La Junta (11-0) in the semifinals next Saturday. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Resurrection Christian will face No. 6 Platte Valley.
“Big congrats to Faith Christian,” Heide said. “They are a good, hard team. They’ve had a big improvement from a year ago. They deserve to continue on.”
Bayfield will try to regroup and rebuild. It will enter next season still on a school record 24-game home winning streak and as the Class 2A Intermountain League’s four-time defending champions. The current players at BHS have never lost a league game.
The graduating players won 42 games for the Wolverines, three more than any other graduating class in history. The class also has the best winning percentage of any graduating class from Bayfield, and the team gave the school a fifth consecutive playoff berth for the first time in history.
“I wanted to give these boys and their parents and our home fans one more victory, one more home game,” Heide said. “Personally, I feel let down that I couldn’t give all these people and players who have given us so much one more home game at least. It didn’t happen, but I couldn’t be more proud of how the guys played. To go 42-5 over the last four years, I love everyone for it.”