Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
With the Wolverines’ defense backed into a corner, Ian Sandrey saw his opportunity.
The Bayfield High School senior defensive back swooped in like an osprey and pounced on a football that Kirtland Central had left flopping on the turf.
Sandrey’s fumble recovery at the Wolverines’ 17-yard line with 3 minutes, 59 seconds to play in regulation stopped a potential tying drive by the visiting Broncos, who already had marched nearly 60 yards.
Instead, the timely recovery by Sandrey preserved Bayfield’s adventuresome 22-14 victory over Kirtland Central in the football season opener Friday night under a blue moon at Wolverine Country Stadium.
“I read it right off the bat,” Sandrey said when he saw the mishandled handoff in the Kirtland Central backfield.
“I thought I might scoop it up and score, but I got tripped up,” said Sandrey, the son of Karen and Karl Sandrey.
Kirtland Central had marched into position for a possible late touchdown and a tying two-point conversion when elusive junior tailback Jerrid Smith scooted outside for 26 yards, moving the ball to the Bayfield 12-yard line.
The carry, his 17th of the game, gave Smith 141 rushing yards on the night. But it would be his last carry, thanks to the opportunistic Bayfield defense.
“After the scrimmage last weekend, we knew what we needed to do,” Bayfield linebacker/fullback Michael Hawkins said. “We stepped it up in practice.”
Hawkins, who led the BHS defense at middle linebacker, also provided an offensive boost early in the second half when Bayfield only led 14-6.
“As a senior captain, I feel like it is my job to get the team rolling ... get the team pumped,” said Hawkins, who was inserted at fullback in the third quarter.
He carried the ball nine times on Bayfield’s opening drive of the second half. Hawkins gained 51 yards in a sequence that ended when sophomore quarterback Matt Knickerbocker lofted a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone where senior Drake Rhodes made a leaping touchdown catch.
The 10-yard scoring pass and Sandrey’s two-point conversion run pushed Bayfield’s lead to 22-6 with 2:39 to play in the third quarter.
“Mike Hawkins gave us a big lift coming in at fullback,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said. “He gave us a little different running style.”
The long scoring drive (13 plays, 67 yards) was one of the keys to the game, Heide said.
“That was a game-winning type drive. You need those. That was a huge part of the game, and it took a lot of time off the clock,” Heide said after his first victory at Bayfield High School.
“We had some big plays early to get us going,” Heide said.
The offense struggled after the Wolverines went ahead 14-0 with two stunningly quick touchdowns.
The first came on the opening kickoff when the football took a wild hop and bounced off Bayfield returner Rhodes, caroming right into the hands of teammate Anthony Chamblee, who dashed through the Broncos for an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Bayfield’s second touchdown came on an equally bizarre play when Kirtland Central’s center snapped the ball over his punter’s head deep in BHS territory.
Smith, the punter, chased down the football and managed to get off a running, rugby-style punt that went directly to Bayfield linebacker Kyle Briskey, who returned the punt 18 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
Smith scored Kirtland’s first touchdown on a 50-yard run. He threw a 25-yard halfback pass to Johnnie Johnson for Kirtland Central’s other score.
“We’ve got to take it one step at a time,” said Heide (pronounced Hide).
“This was Step 1.”