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Bayfield football eyes the Tigers

Refocused Wolverines hosting Aztec on Friday
Bayfield head coach Glenn Wallace, now in his second season leading the Wolverines, aids his quarterbacks in a passing drill last season. BHS' 2023 season started with a 61-0 loss in Utah to San Juan, but the team hopes to bounce back this week at home versus Aztec. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Anyone remember being tasked in elementary school with erasing chalkboards at day’s end?

Remember how even the unused erasers often left behind fragments and/or shadows of what had been scrawled?

That’s more or less how Bayfield football views last Friday’s blowout loss in Blanding, Utah. Though stuck on the receiving end of a shutout shelling, and for as much as San Juan tried to wipe clean BHS’ slate of preparation, unbeknown to the mighty Broncos … traces – yielding some actual success – remained.

Ones which unfortunately didn’t show up on the scoreboard, but ones which hold promise for when the Wolverines (0-1, 0-0 2A Intermountain) kick off their 2023 home opener versus Aztec (New Mexico) at 7 p.m. Friday.

“Whenever 61-nothing is hung, and that’s the score people are seeing on MaxPreps and stuff, we just made sure we put it back into perspective for the kids,” Bayfield head coach Glenn Wallace said after Wednesday’s practice. “And I’ve been telling people this all week: We played better against San Juan this year than we did last year.”

“We really made them earn it on their first drive; their quarterback … on the second play of the game almost fumbled,” he noted. “And we had a touchdown called back; it was an inadvertent whistle by the umpire – a kid’s helmet had popped off, and he didn’t mean to call the play dead. He told me after the game he’d meant to tell the kid ‘Stop playing, stop playing!’ but his whistle was in his mouth. We’d scored, like, a 52-yard touchdown – Cody (Ross) to Lincoln (Williams) – and that would have been the first that we’ve scored on San Juan in three years.”

“And we had another opportunity; we had a receiver get hit hard, but we would hope he’d have (normally) caught that touchdown. So that was at least two ‘scores’ against San Juan! We just put it into perspective; now we’ve got to keep on climbing.”

Held to fewer than 150 yards of offense by SJHS (3-0, 0-0 UHSAA 2A-South), while torched by the Bronco combo of senior quarterback Parker Snyder (20-of-26 passing, 253 yards, 4 TD) and senior running back Zack Conway (10-81 rushing, 3 TD), a refocused Bayfield, hoping to halt an 11-game skid dating back to 2021, will next encounter an AHS squad off to a 2-0 start.

The Tigers, already with a 50-0 blowout of in-state 5A Gallup Miyamura and a 28-6 defeat of Montezuma-Cortez – a 2A state semifinalist in 2022, will enter Bayfield averaging just under 300 yards of offense per game.

Senior quarterback Landan Frost has thrown for just under 250 yards with two TDs and one interception. BHS’ Ross, a senior, was a reported 10-of-24 for 95 yards with one pick against San Juan. Senior Baylor Seabolt drives AHS’ ground game, having carried 29 times for 263 yards with eight scores already.

Three receivers (seniors Jayden Godbay and Talan Olguin, sophomore Kale Watson), meanwhile, are already approaching 100 yards. Not surprising, considering former AHS wideout Justin Harcrow, essential to Aztec’s Ryley Hegarty-powered aerial attack from 2003-06, is on Gropp’s coaching staff.

Senior Keaton Pickering paced Bayfield in Blanding with four catches for 37 yards. Williams, a junior, gained 48 yards on three grabs – despite being inadvertently denied the long six-pointer and thus a 100-yard night. And though the numbers aren’t eye-popping, considering they came against a program now on a 28-game win streak, including two state titles, they’re cause enough for optimism.

“Cody Ross, after having not played last year, he stepped in and took over the quarterback position pretty much right away when we started running things, so I’m excited about how Cody is coming along,” Wallace said. “(Senior Donovan ‘Dante’) Candelaria’s looking great running the football; we were able to get our counter play going against San Juan, so that’s something we’re going to be looking at again.”

“And Keaton, he had a couple drops last week … but hasn’t dropped a football in practice this week. He was pretty upset with himself after Friday night … so he took it upon himself and he’s just been lights-out catching the ball.”

Also singling out the emergence of linemen Gabriel Archuleta, a senior, and Justin Westbrook, a sophomore, Wallace was enthusiastic when noting this year’s BHS-AHS clash effectively ‘completes’ last fall’s weather-halted battle in Aztec – deemed a 12-7 win for the Tigers with 3:36 still left in the third quarter.

“We came together this week,” he said, “and the kids have been preparing their butts off. We like our chances.”