Questions abound about Bayfield High School’s football team this season, but eighth-year head coach Gary Heide is ready to answer.
The Wolverines will enter the 2019 season with a slew of new assistant coaches, players at new positions and schemes, but for Heide, it’s business as usual.
“What I’m feeling is how these youngsters have progressed throughout the latter part of the spring and summer because, quite honestly, when the season ended last year, we didn’t quite know who was going be in what position,” Heide said. “It’s turning out that these guys are really working hard and really have progressed, and you can really see the improvement. I’m really excited for the new faces, coaches and what things that we can accomplish; it’s all them, they’re all working hard.”
Heide will go into the season with a 63-18 record that includes undefeated state championship runs in 2015 and 2017. Last season, BHS went 8-2, won the Class 2A Intermountain League and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 2A state football playoffs before a loss at Faith Christian.
The Wolverines lost a huge class of seniors who were part of those state championship teams. A key returner, Dylan Hilliker, is also out with a broken foot. But it doesn’t mean they will be without a potent offense.
BHS will have senior Dillon Vroman fill in at running back for Hilliker, who reached 918 all purpose yards last season, while sophomore Isaac Ross will run the offense at quarterback in his first season of varsity football. The Wolverines also have a strong receiving group in Crosby Edwards, James Mottin, Trenton Harrison and Kalon Mead.
Edwards is BHS’ leading wide receiver entering the season after he was called up from junior varsity three games into last season. He caught 14 passes for 145 yards and scored one touchdown, while Mottin is also another threat after he had six catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in six games last season.
“They’re big holes to fill; those are important positions, and I always stress the offensive line, but we’ve got to have skills at a couple of positions,” Heide said. “I think they’ll do a fantastic job because they’re going to get more physical, learn the game, but those are not young people that are square pegs in a round hole. They’re meant to play those positions. We’re going to try and utilize that part of the game a little bit this year. A lot of it has to do with the same philosophy. We’re going to run the ball and that creates times for us to throw. But, I’m really excited about the people we’ve got playing, but they’re just all new. They’re going to be shining stars at some point in their career.”
The Wolverines’ new quarterback, Ross, played all of last season with the junior varsity.
“It’s different. Last year, at junior varsity, it was a lot slower pace than varsity is,” Ross said. “Earning the respect of the upperclassmen was a job, but I think I’ve done it pretty well. We’re running the same system, so it’s been pretty easy just moving up to varsity, being (faster) at it, knowing what everybody is doing just in case they don’t.”
There have been changes made on the defensive side of the ball, as well. Scott Schaefer was named defensive coordinator during the offseason, while longtime coordinator Mike Wnorowski will co-op with Schaefer in order to keep Bayfield’s stout defense in fine form. Kevin Wold was named the new receivers and defensive backs coach, while Justin Ross will be the offensive and defensive line coach. Last season, the Wolverines gave up only 12.4 points per game.
John Foutz will anchor the defense this season. The linebacker made 57 total tackles with five tackles for a loss last year. Also returning on defense is Cael Schaefer, who averaged 4.8 tackles per game as a freshman last year. Ethan Morris will also step in at linebacker along with playing center and offensive tackle.
Foutz has been a fan of Schaefer’s defensive leadership.
“He is a new defensive coordinator, but he’s been around Bayfield for a while,” Foutz said. “I feel comfortable with him running the defense. Nothing is perfect, everything is going to need improvement all throughout the season, but we’re way past where I thought we’d be at this point in time. We’ve worked hard. ... To be honest, not very many guys showed up to the summer workouts, but those that did are way better for it. I think the guys who are starting, who have put in the work, are going to be dominant on the field, and I think we’ll be a dominant team.”
In addition to the wave of incoming assistants is Colter McMenimen, who will handle the special teams. Heide said the Wolverines have never emphasized the details of special teams before McMenimen took over the unit.
“Colter McMenimen is a fabulous young coach,” Heide said. “I’ve seen him work all summer now, being this is the seventh practice. His knowledge with the special teams, and the practices that he brings, it’s unparalleled for us; we’ve never practiced special teams with such emphasis on the minor details. And that’s hats off to Colter and his knowledge, and of course, he helps out with defensive backs and running backs, too. I just can’t say enough about the expectations with the excitement I have for the special teams.”
The Wolverines will open the season at the always-imposing Wolverine Country Stadium against San Juan High School of Blanding, Utah. The program has a 23-game home winning streak, and since the stadium opened in 2000, BHS is 70-34, and is 59-6 at home since 2007.
From there, the Wolverines will hit the road in September for games at Aspen High School followed by a bye before a trek to Aztec High School. In addition, Bayfield will host Durango and Farmington for its final two non-conference games.
The Intermountain League will be a tough task once again, as three teams from league made the playoffs last season, including Montezuma-Cortez, Alamosa and Salida.
“My job is to not have any letdowns through hard times and to continue to improve, and then when we do go into conference, there’s going to be some really good teams,” Heide said. “Our goal is to win and really concentrate on the IML, obviously, and when that comes to be at our best. I can’t foresee the future, but I know that if we are at our best, we are healthy, we have improved and we have great attitudes, I can’t see an IML game that we don’t walk on the field expecting to win it. And after that, we just let it play out and see what happens, but I’m optimistic about it.”