When the Bayfield High School football team kicks off against Pagosa Springs tonight, the Wolverines might see the Pirates on the other side of the field as a mirror image of themselves. Both squads have identical records and are gunning for the 2A Intermountain League title.
Bayfield (3-4, 2-0 IML) will enter the contest coming off of a 43-8 beatdown of Montezuma-Cortez last Saturday, as Isaac Ross threw for four touchdown passes in a breakout performance. BHS head coach Gary Heide said if his team is going to come out on top, the resurgent offense will have to keep up the high level of play and continue to make smart decisions.
“We really were able to get a lot of people involved last Saturday, and it was a much-needed team victory,” Heide said. “We’re working on all phases of the game and had another really good week of practice. But we know Pagosa is extremely disciplined, so we will have to execute again at a really high level.”
Pagosa (3-4, 2-0 IML) will have plenty of confidence heading into the key league clash, as the Pirates romped Salida 40-7 on Oct. 11 and had a bye last week.
The Pirates are a run-heavy offense led by senior running back Paden Bailey, who has rushed for 765 yards on 105 carries. He has five games with over 100 yards rushing and has found the end zone nine times this season. Junior quarterback Grant Aucoin has also been a threat, as he has thrown for 462 yards and five TD passes and has rushed for six scores. Aucoin has been intercepted five times.
“Pagosa is a really good team,” Heide said. “Myron Stretton is a great coach. As soon as he took over for his second stint, they’re such a different team. They’re a really well-coached team, always get the most out of the players, and they’re tough to beat. They’re a hard team to out-trick, have a great defense and don’t seem to waiver. They’re getting better every year.”
Aucoin is Pagosa’s leader on defense with 53 tackles, while Bailey leads the team in tackles for loss with six. The Pirates have given up 23 points per game but have not been able to break through the offensive line, recording just two sacks on the year. They have forced five turnovers.
Bayfield will look for a second successive strong offensive performance, as Ross has continued to find his groove. The sophomore QB passed for over 100 yards for the first time in his varsity career in the 68-19 loss to Farmington and bounced back with bigger numbers against Cortez. He threw for 227 yards on 8-of-10 passing. He has thrown for seven scores and four interceptions but has yet to be picked off in league play.
BHS’ run game has continued to shine, as sophomore running back Cael Schaefer leads the Wolverines with 545 yards on 103 carries. But he has not scored since his four-touchdown performance against Alamosa three weeks ago.
Heide did not discredit his team’s performance over the last few weeks, either.
“The thing as a coach that always impresses me with my team is how athletic our kids are,” Heide said. “I mean, we’ve got some tremendous athletes out there and are skilled at every position. It’s what makes coaching this team so much fun. It’s reassuring to know that we’ve got playmakers on both sides of the ball.”
On defense, John Foutz has continued to pummel his way through the season, as he leads BHS with 65 total tackles, 32 more than the next highest, Kalon Mead, who has 33. The Wolverines have forced 10 turnovers, and Trenton Harrison leads BHS with three interceptions and a forced fumble.
The Wolverines will look to win their first game inside Wolverine Country Stadium this year after giving up 165 points in three defeats at home. Heide understands how similar the teams are, and after a memorable 14-13 overtime thriller last season, he knows there’s everything to play for against the Pirates.
“I think we happen to be two very good 3-4 teams who have both gotten over the hurdles,” Heide said. “Pagosa played a really tough schedule, we have had a tough schedule, plus dealt with some injuries. It’s a really, really good matchup, and it’s going to be tough to beat a well-coached team. The most important thing now is that the opportunity is there for us, and we have to seize it. We’re not looking ahead or behind, just what’s in front of us.”