The unbeaten No. 3-ranked Bayfield High School football team converted two first-quarter fumble recoveries into touchdowns en route to a 47-7 victory over Pagosa Springs on Friday night, clinching the inaugural Western League championship in the process.
The Wolverines, who led 27-0 in the first quarter, scored twice on their first six offensive plays in a matchup of former Intermountain League rivals.
Allec Rodriguez started the scoring parade when he broke free on a 58-yard scoring run on Bayfield’s third play from scrimmage.
Two plays later, after Joe Zink recovered a Pagosa Springs fumble, TJ Pazell ran 14 yards up the middle for another Bayfield score – the first of his four touchdowns.
Pagosa Springs fumbled again on its next possession, setting up Bayfield quarterback Matt Knickerbocker for a 1-yard scoring run with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Not done yet, Pazell had a 35-yard run and then a 1-yard scoring run to give Bayfield a 27-0 first-quarter lead – the Wolverines’ most prolific quarter of the season.
Pagosa Springs collected three Bayfield turnovers in the second quarter, but the Pirates could not take advantage of the interception and two fumble recoveries.
Pazell scored his third touchdown on a 60-yard run up the middle midway through the third period.
The 40-point running clock mercy rule kicked in after Bayfield’s Anthony Chamblee bolted 60 yards, setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Knickerbocker to Trey Lange with 4 minutes, 35 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Pazell’s final touchdown came when he picked up a Pirates fumble and returned it 14 yards with a minute to play in the third.
Dom Brittain added the final conversion kicks for the Wolverines (9-0, 7-0 WL).
Pagosa Springs (1-8, 1-6 WL) got on the scoreboard with 6:52 to play when Dalton Madden scooped up a Bayfield fumble and returned it 50 yards for a score.
“It’s a great honor to be a part of two consecutive ... undefeated regular seasons,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said in his postgame interview on KLJH 107.1 FM.
“Hats off to the Wolverines,” he said. “Nine-and-0 two years in a row.”
Last year BHS reached the state championship game before losing for the first time.
Heide said the Wolverines will have to avoid the flurry of turnovers like they had at Pagosa Springs on Friday night.
“That was lack of concentration at that stage of the game. Obviously, you can’t have turnovers (in the playoffs),” Heide said.
“But I know, they (Wolverines) have a lot in them yet.”
The Wolverines will play in the CHSAA Class 2A Boys Football State Championships next Saturday; the playoff pairings for the state tournament are expected Sunday.
“Sunday we find out,” Heide said. “We expect to be home. But ... now, you have to play well at home or away.”
The Wolverines, ranked No. 3 by The Denver Post, likely will host a first-round home game for the third consecutive season.