The hardest part of the regular-season schedule is behind the Bayfield Wolverines. That doesn’t mean the Week 3 matchup is easy.
After losses to Class 2A No. 1 Delta and No. 4 Lamar to open the season, Bayfield High School’s football team (0-2, 0-1 2A Southwestern League) will return home at 7 p.m. Friday to face undefeated and sixth-ranked Pagosa Springs (2-0, 1-0 SWL).
“They’re playing at a high level,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said of the Pirates. “Credit to coach (Nathan) Morales and the team that he has. He’s getting the best out of his athletes. He’s got some real good runners and really good defensive players who are put in the right position. They are a good team, and we have to put together a complete game to come out on top.”
Putting together a complete game is what has eluded the Wolverines thus far. BHS led Delta 16-0 before a 32-16 defeat and trailed Lamar only 14-7 at halftime last week before a 41-7 setback.
Meanwhile, Pagosa Springs opened with a 44-0 non-league win against Middle Park before a 46-6 road victory at Alamosa last Thursday.
Last season, Pagosa Springs blasted Bayfield 42-0 at Wolverine Country Stadium behind a big game from quarterback Grant Aucoin, who was a perfect 6-fo-6 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns with another 49 rushing yards. It was senior running back Paden Bailey who rushed for 103 yards and three more touchdowns. It was the first time Pagosa Springs had beat Bayfield since 2006.
While Bailey graduated last spring, Aucoin is back to once again challenge the Wolverines. He has passed for 169 yards and two touchdowns with one interception so far in 2020 to go with 219 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 23 carries.
“Their quarterback uses his ability to run and pass to make them a really good offense,” Heide said.
And Dylan Tressler has proven a worthy successor to Bailey. He has amassed 421 rushing yards on only 44 carries, with four going for touchdowns.
Heide has plenty of confidence in his own offense, particularly in junior quarterback Isaac Ross. Progress for Ross from a year ago has been evident on the field. So far this season, he has passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He has completed 59.1% of his passes.
“I have nothing but great confidence in Isaac,” Heide said. “He can move this offense forward. He knows how to read defenses and make checks at the line. He knows every play. And while I don’t have enough positive comments about him, he also has the respect of the entire team. The way he has been able to extend plays and check down has been spot on.”
Ross’ favorite target has been senior receiver Crosby Edwards, who has nine catches for 163 yards an two scores. Cael Schaefer is second on the team with seven catches for 68 yards.
BHS will look to get Schaefer, Cade Carlson and Brecken Espinosa going in the run game after being stifled last weekend in Lamar.
Pagosa Springs will enter the game with a rest advantage after it last played eight days earlier, while BHS will play only six days after its latest game. But Heide said the team will be at full strength this week, which he believes will help the Wolverines’ depth problems.
“We were thin for awhile, but every player eligible helps big time,” Heide said. “Everybody is health, and all of the varsity players are eligible. We struggled with grades a bit, but we have got that turned around. Hats off to the kids trying to turn that around.”
While BHS has all eyes on Friday night’s home game, the Wolverines are also now in search of a Week 4 opponent. After initially opting into the fall season when given the choice between fall or spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitou Springs has canceled its fall football season after coronavirus led the team to miss its first two games. Heide said BHS will wait up until the last minute next week in hopes of adding a new game to the schedule to replace the Mustangs.
First, though, the Wolverines will worry about the Pirates and trying to win their first game of the season.
“We’re still very upbeat,” Heide said. “We are fortunate and grateful to be on the field practicing and playing football. I think we can put a game together and have a great time.”