Once he saw daylight in front of him, Bayfield High School senior running back Dylan Hilliker saw what he had dreamed of since July: the end zone.
Hilliker returned to the field for the first time since he broke his foot twice during the summer and was able to play his final game in Wolverines purple. He scored two touchdowns, recovered a fumble and was everywhere on the field in Bayfield’s 51-0 trouncing of Salida Friday night inside Wolverine Country Stadium.
“It felt like home,” Hilliker said about his breakthrough moment on his stunning 61-yard score. “I saw daylight, hit the angle and cut back, and knew I was going to score. It felt at home running out there with all my guys blocking for me, and it felt amazing.”
BHS head coach Gary Heide said the spirit of Bayfield football was kept alive through a special senior class during a tough year that saw the Wolverines come short of another league title and win only one home game
“I really want to thank the seniors for keeping Bayfield football up to its standards and alive,” Heide said. “They really kept this team together through tough times this year. I love them for it, and they kept us together. In the last game of the season, to have a performance like this is really special.”
Bayfield (4-5, 2-2 2A Intermountain League) got off to a fast start, as sophomore running back Cael Schaefer found his stride and went 36 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 early in the first quarter.
After the Wolverines recovered one of three first-half turnovers by Salida, they drove deep into Trojan territory. On second-and-goal, Hilliker scored his first touchdown since last season and put BHS up 14-0 with 3:39 to go in the first quarter.
On the opening play of the second quarter, the Wolverines pounced on another fumble but were unable to capitalize..
They would go on to recover the third fumble of the half when Ethan Morris jumped on a loose ball at the Salida 36-yard line with 4:20 to go. On the next play, Schaefer broke loose for a 36-yard score to make it 21-0.
Trenton Harrison added the exclamation point after he drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give BHS a comfortable 24-0 halftime lead.
Salida (1-8, 1-3 Intermountain League) would get off to a tough start in the second half, as the Schaefer returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for another Bayfield TD.
It was special teams again that would score next for Bayfield, as Crosby Edwards took a punt 72 yards to the end zone make it 38-0 with 9:48 to go in the third quarter.
Harrison then intercepted a pass, and that set up Hilliker’s stunning run. He bobbed and weaved his way through six Salida defenders, cut back and bolted to the end zone from 61 yards out to make it 45-0 to start the mercy-rule running clock.
“He has great character and has been a valuable part of this team for four years,” Heide said of Hilliker. “He was at every practice, encouraging and challenging others to be better. To see him out there getting a couple of touches and a storybook run, it was a thing of beauty.”
Just before the end of the third quarter, the BHS defense forced one more turnover, as Kalon Mead intercepted a pitch and went untouched for a 28-yard score to make it 51-0 with 2:30 to go in the third.
Salida head coach Matt Luttrell was proud of his team’s efforts all season. The Trojans had 22 players come out for football this season after a couple of years competing at the top of the league with Bayfield.
“We were super young. Our offensive line consisted of freshmen and sophomores, so I was proud of the way they fought tonight and all year,” Luttrell said. “I’m extremely proud of my seniors. They did a great job; they tried their best, and I am looking forward to seeing how our young group will do next year.”
BHS head coach Gary Heide said he was unsure of his future and said retiring is not out of the realm of possibility. Friday night did mark the end of defensive coordinator Mike Wnoroswki’s tenure with the Wolverines. He took a step back in 2019 but served as a defensive assistant coach. In five years together, Heide and Wnorowski won four league titles and two state championships.
“I haven’t made that decision yet, and am going year-by-year right now,” Heide said. “The only thing that would supersede would be my family, because I love to do it, I love Bayfield and I love these kids. I’ll wait for a little while and see if I can help out again. If I can help out again and am healthy, I’ll probably do it again, but we’ll wait and see.”