Gary Heide was impressed the first time he met with the Bayfield High School football team last summer. He was even more impressed with the Wolverines when they opened training camp in August.
Those same Wolverines rewarded Heide with a championship in the first year of the new Western League and a rerun all the way to the CHSAA Class 2A Boys Football State Championships semifinals.
Heide, who took over this season for local legend Marshall Hahn, was voted the Western League Coach of the Year in his first season in Southwest Colorado. The BHS head coach, who led the Wolverines to an 11-1 record, was honored by his fellow coaches in the Western League.
I have to say, I came into a great situation here in Bayfield, said Heide, who relocated from West Grand in Kremmling.
This is really an honor more for the coaching staff than for me, he said, reiterating his appreciation for the experienced BHS assistants who bridged from the previous administration.
When I first met these kids, I could instantly see the respect they have for the game, Heide said.
Seven Wolverines were named first-team selections in the all-conference listings. Four more Wolverines were named to the honorable mention list in voting by the conference coaches.
The Bayfield all-conference selections were led by senior tailback/safety TJ Pazell and lineman Austin McMenimen: Pazell was voted the top back of the Western League for 2012; McMenimen was named the top lineman.
Pazell was joined by senior BHS classmates McMenimen, Mike Hawkins, Nate Goddard, Drake Rhodes and Allec Rodriguez on the all-conference first team. Bayfield sophomore Zane Westbrook also was voted to the first team.
Hawkins anchored the stingy BHS defense as a linebacker.
McMenimen worked the offensive and defensive lines for BHS alongside Goddard, the leader of the Wolverines up front.
Rhodes was Bayfields leading receiver this year. He also was forced to play slotback late in the year when Rodriguez moved into the option quarterback position.
Rodriguez took over at quarterback when starter Matthew Knickerbocker suffered a concussion in a playoff win over Faith Christian. Rodriguez also started at quarterback when the Wolverines were eliminated from the playoffs 31-6 by Platte Valley in Kersey.
Those senior linemen (Goddard and McMenimen) ... they are great role models. They are there every practice, ready to have a great practice, Heide said.
And Austin ... people dont realize the injuries and physical problems he went through.
Even myself, I found myself looking up to him, Heide said of the BHS senior who underwent knee surgery in August.
As soon as they cleared him, he was out there ... limping and ready to play.
And once he got in there, he never came out, Heide said.
Bayfield players on the honorable mention list were seniors Kyle Briskey, Ian Sandrey, junior Wyatt Williams and sophomore Anthony Chamblee.
Heide said when two players such as McMenimen and Pazell are voted the best back and best lineman in the league that means, everybody wishes they had them on their team.