Cael Schaefer has fully embraced the next-man-up mentality for the Bayfield High School football team. After a slow start to the season, the sophomore has sparked the Wolverines’ run game, and has been a force since filling in at the start of the season for injured senior Dylan Hilliker.
“I just prepared myself during the summer,” Schaefer said. “Even with (Hilliker) still healthy then, I knew I had to be ready to go in case something happened. There wasn’t any moment that particularly shocked me with the load. It’s just me being prepared and ready to take it on when our main guy went down.”
Schaefer, son of Scott and Christina, did more than just take on a few extra carries last week against Alamosa. He rushed for 167 yards on 28 carries, scored four times and was very difficult to tackle in BHS’ 28-10 trouncing over the Mean Moose.
“I think it felt really good for all of us,” Schaefer said. “It was a big bounce back after Durango beat us up pretty good the week before. We knew that Alamosa was a good team, and it was a huge confidence booster for us. My linemen did a great job, and it’s pretty easy to make big plays when they make some great holes for you to run through. It made my job that much easier.”
BHS head coach Gary Heide has also seen plenty of improvement after Schaefer had a strong offseason.
“I knew that (Schaefer) was going to be a strong sophomore player, but he’s surpassed my expectations,” Heide said. “He put in the time in the weight room and with speed training, and it’s shown. At the start of the season, I thought he’d be a really fine complement to our backfield, but he has really taken on the load with our injuries, and has excelled.”
This season for Bayfield (2-3, 1-0 2A Intermountain League), Schaefer has rushed for 446 yards on 88 carries and has scored seven touchdowns while averaging 89 yards per game. He has taken at least 20 carries in three games, and his production has increased. He has also been a force on defense, as he has the second-most tackles on the team with 24, while he has recorded an interception and blocked a punt. Even with much of the Wolverines’ success on offense, he gave most of the credit to his offensive line. Heide was the least bit surprised.
“I see a commitment to his team and humbleness,” Heide said. “He doesn’t take anything for granted, and is always the first player to thank his offensive line. That’s what I’d expect to come out of him. The way he talks in practice, he is always there for the line, and his teammates.”
In the last three weeks, Schaefer has carried the ball 60 times, but one run in particular against the Mean Moose stood out to the head coach.
“When you look at the tape against Alamosa, it’s amazing,” Heide said. “His vision is remarkable. You get that with very few running backs, and it’s amazing. He had quite a long run where he was finally tackled at the six-yard line. The play was designed to go to the right, but he cut back left and he was off to the races, just like that. For me, that’s very remarkable.”
With the Wolverines squaring off against Farmington (5-1) on Friday at Bayfield High School, Schaefer is ready to take on more carries, and help his team get back to .500 on the year.
“I think we need to have more energy than we did last week,” Schaefer said. “We’ve gotta build off of what we did well last week, and just be focused in practice. Farmington is a young group like us, but they’re super athletic and can explode when they need to.”
While Heide knows Farmington has athletes, he’s confident in Schaefer to continue running the ball well.
“Cael has a lot of grit and toughness,” Heide said. “You’ve got to go through some hurt, but so far he’s shown that. Progress has been made, and now that we’re getting a few players back, hopefully we can distribute the ball more. We’ve got some tough teams coming up, but we’re going to be putting the load on Cael, because he’s proven he can handle it.”