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Football future: Barnes going NAIA way

Bayfield senior selects Nebraska’s Concordia University
Bayfield's Deegan Barnes passes out of the pocket during road action at Aztec, New Mexico, in the Fall 2022 season. Barnes has decided to continue his student-athlete career at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, though he may be converted into a defensive back on the gridiron for the Bulldogs. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

For rookies and veterans alike, the 2022 football season for Bayfield’s players was a trial by fire.

Bayfield’s opponents combined to complete the campaign standing an aggregate 73-29, a .716 winning percentage. Bayfield played two eventual state champions (Blanding San Juan in Utah’s Class 2A and Bloomfield in New Mexico’s Class 4A), one runner-up (Delta, CHSAA Class 2A) and one semifinalist (Montezuma-Cortez, CHSAA Class 2A).

Additionally, Centauri reached CHSAA’s Class 1A quarterfinals, Aztec did likewise in NMAA 4A play, and Moffat County qualified for the opening Round-of-16 in CHSAA’s 2A playoffs. An overtime heartbreaker at Pagosa Springs sewed it all up, but in the 39-33 loss to the arch-nemesis Pirates it was clear the Wolverines weren’t going 0-9 without a fight.

Bayfield's Deegan Barnes readies himself for action inside Wolverine Country Stadium during the Fall 2022 football season. Barnes has decided to continue his gridiron career as a student-athlete at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Particularly senior quarterback Deegan Barnes.

“I think that’s the type of season that forges a leader, you know?” said head coach Glenn Wallace, who could very easily have had at least three wins during is first year in Wolverine Country. Nonleague Moffat County pulled out a three-point squeaker, and Aztec swiped a weather-abbreviated clash by five. “We had a very young team and … he was our leader from Day One.”

“I think it really helped with just, like, enjoying the game and not worrying about the outcome as much,” Barnes said, of his final season at BHS, “especially toward the end of the season. And helping teach me to go through adversity, stuff like that.”

“It was a good experience to have; stuff like that’s going to happen in life.”

And even if ’22 could be said to have gone up in flames, No. 22 emerged from the inferno tested and tempered for the future. And indeed there will be a future in football for Barnes. On March 15, his decision to continue his student-athlete career as a player at NAIA member Concordia University was commemorated at a gathering inside BHS Gymnasium.

Definitely not a bad way to go into the now-finished spring break.

“It was really the only school that had reached out a lot. They seemed pretty interested, and it was just good timing,” Barnes said. “So I went on a campus tour, to the facilities and all that, and I really liked it. Just seemed like a good place to start.”

“It’s a pretty new staff – the head coach has only been there for a couple of years – but I definitely got the feeling that they’re there to win,” Barnes added. “They’re trying to build a program for years to come.”

Wallace expressed that as he continues constructing Wolverine Football, Barnes was the sort of foundation – if not cornerstone – player he knows will be hard to replace.

“It’s not even so much as a quarterback; I think it’s much more as a hard-nosed kid, that shows the young kids what it’s like to put in the work during the offseason,” Wallace said. “He made 95% of our offseason workouts; he was ready to play whenever the time called. He’s physically ready to play football, when it comes down to it.”

Located in Seward, Nebraska, roughly 30 miles northwest of Lincoln, Concordia is coming off a 2022 season that saw the Bulldogs, playing a Great Plains Athletic Conference-only schedule, finish 4-6 overall. Three of their losses came by four points or fewer, as sixth-year skipper Patrick Daberkow’s crew sought to follow up a quality 7-3 (7-3 GPAC) effort in ’21.

Information posted to Concordia Football’s webpage notes that Barnes is part of an “initial recruiting class of 36 pledges/signees, including 33 high school prospects and three college transfers.” He’s also one of two Colorado preps. Cornerback/long snapper Max Wurdeman of Parker-based 5A Legend also committed to Concordia.

Utilized as a quarterback at Bayfield when on offense, Barnes may be able to join a pass-powered program featuring junior-to-be QB D.J. McGarvie, but unfortunately losing NAIA Honorable Mention All-America wide receiver Korrell Koehlmoos. A fifth-year senior, Koehlmoos’ production in ’22 was record-setting; he smashed Concordia’s marks for career catches and yards, while leading the nation in catches (95) and catches per game (9.5) while ranking eighth in yards (1,024) and touchdowns (12).

His 221 career receptions destroyed the previous best of 168, set by Concordia University and NAIA Hall-of-Fame tight end Ross Wurdeman, between 1998 and 2001, when the ’Dogs first hosted, and won an NAIA playoff game after sharing the GPAC crown with (now-NCAA Div. II) University of Sioux Falls. The tight end, a former high school quarterback himself at Columbus, Nebraska, has no known relation to the aforementioned Legend Titan.

But while Barnes tried helping Bayfield’s receivers light up scoreboards, he’ll most likely be lighting up receivers himself at the next level as a defensive back. At least in the fast-arriving foreseeable future.

“It’s something I talked with my parents about,” Barnes said. “If I get up there and I could get a starting spot as a slot receiver or something like that, then I’d maybe try to talk to the coaches. Because I know I’m fully capable of doing that.”

“But they recruited me to play safety,” he said, along with an inclination to pursue business management studies. “They run a three-safety defense, so there’s a good chance I can get playing time as a freshman.”

Safety Kam Baker and cornerback Isiaha Conner were both named Honorable Mention All-GPAC after combining for more than 120 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups, four forced fumbles and two recoveries – helping stabilize a younger defensive unit which allowed 25.3 points per game.

“I could see (Deegan) as an outside-linebacker, strong-safety type – or a slotback,” Wallace said. “He’s a very good tackler, he’s good at running the football, and just a tough kid. I can’t say enough about him; I think he’s going to do great things.”

“I definitely used track as a way to build speed and quickness for football. It’s what I planned on doing since freshman year, so that’s why I did track. And wrestling’s the same way; it helps with all kinds of stuff in football,” Barnes said, addressing his multisport involvement. “Football’s what I’ve wanted to do since I can remember, so it’s just a dream come true.”

Bayfield's Deegan Barnes, left, accepts congratulations following a win over a Bloomfield, New Mexico opponent at Ignacio's Butch Melton Memorial Invitational this winter. The strength and agility needed in wrestling will serve Barnes well at the next level; he will continue his student-athlete career as a football player for Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)