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Bayfield football earns No. 8 seed in state playoffs

Wolverines beat Pagosa to finish 4-0 in league
Bayfield quarterback Isaac Ross, pictured earlier this season, threw two touchdown passes in Friday’s win against Pagosa Springs. The Wolverines will host Elizabeth in the playoffs Saturday. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald) file

About an hour after the 2A state football brackets were announced Sunday, Bayfield head coach Gary Heide was thinking, “It’s about what we figured. No real surprise.”

The Wolverines drew the No. 8 seed and in the first round will host No. 9 Elizabeth at 2 p.m. Saturday at Wolverine Country Stadium.

“We are familiar with them through our previous competition,” Heide said. “They have a strong quarterback and some good running backs that we will need to stop.” Elizabeth, a small community surrounded by residential subdivisions about halfway between the Air Force Academy and Denver, played Bayfield in the first round in Bayfield’s 2017 championship year. “This year, it should be a little more balanced,” Heide said, referring to Bayfield’s overwhelming 51-0 win in 2017.

And more balanced it should be. After Friday’s games, in which Elizabeth smothered a good Kent Denver team while Bayfield struggled to beat Pagosa Springs (2-7), 28-6, Wolverine coaches wondered whether Elizabeth (7-2) might surpass Bayfield in the rankings and steal the home field advantage.

Coach Heide acknowledged the letdown against the Pirates.

“That’s what happens when you lose your focus, commit five turnovers and can’t score from inside the red zone,” he said.

The home win, Senior Night for 10 players, gave the Wolverines a 7-1 record (one game with Centauri was canceled because of COVID issues) and an unblemished 4-0 record in the Southwest 2A Conference.

The Wolverines got off to a strong start Friday and scored on their first drive. It was the fourth consecutive game in which they scored on their first drive, except this time it came on the first play from scrimmage. After Pagosa started the game with a failed onside kick, Cael Schaefer burst through the line for a 52-yard touchdown.

The Pirates struck back with a Gavin Lindahl 8-yard run of their own but missed the extra point kick with 6:40 left in the opening quarter.

Isaac Ross closed out first-quarter scoring with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Caden Wood, and Bayfield led 14-6.

Neither team scored again until the third quarter, when Schaefer scored his second of three touchdowns on a 48-yard run. Zane Liddell would make all four of his extra-point kicks on the night. This one put the Wolverines up 21-6 with 5:04 left in the third.

The Wolverines defense found their focus in the second half, limiting Pagosa’s running attack and awarding the offense with excellent field position. Bayfield converted again on a Schaefer 23-yard catch-and-run score from Ross with 4:07 left in the game and sealed the score at 28-6.

Heide was quick to point to his assistant coaches, who joined him when he retook the head coaching reins on June 1 – offensive coordinator Mike Cook and defensive coordinator Dave Vogt, a former Durango head coach.

“We wouldn’t be here without those two guys,” Heide said.

“I think we are in a good position with no critical injuries, a lot of senior experience and a good number of players that helps us,” Heide said. “This week, we will concentrate on focus and expect to play a good game on Saturday.”

The winner of the Bayfield-Elizabeth game will play the winner of the Eaton-Kent Denver contest the following week. Eaton is the No. 1 seed.

Saturday’s game time was moved to 2 p.m. because its original start conflicted with Bayfield’s volleyball team and the regional tournament it is hosting. The Wolverines will host Valley High School, from near Greeley, and Colorado Academy of Denver for the right to go to state the next week.