With a playoff berth on the line, the Bayfield Wolverines made their longest trip of the regular football season on Saturday and defeated the La Junta Tigers, 31-13.
The game featured two rivals, which won four of the past six state 2A titles, but the glow was off of the game as both teams have been rebuilding after 2018.
Bayfield looked like the stronger of the teams in the early going. The Wolverines scored on their first possession with a four-minute drive ending with a 24-yard run by Cael Schaefer. The extra point failed, and it would cost Bayfield the lead for the first time in four games. La Junta scored when quarterback Luke Garner ran in from 11 yards out with 8:36 left in the half. The extra point kick gave the Tigers the 7-6 lead.
Bayfield lost the lead for only 25 seconds. Schaefer raced up the middle for a 66-yard score to recapture the lead, 12-7.
Rather than kneel down in the last minute of the half, BHS head coach Gary Heide chose to go to the air, and it took only one play of the drive as Isaac Ross hit Nic Twedt on a 70-yard touchdown pass. Twedt was attempting to get out of bounds for a modest gain but turned up-field at the sideline and outraced the Tiger defenders.
Bayfield led, 18-7 at the half and appeared in full control.
La Junta, however, took the opening kickoff and marched down on its own 4:36 drive and seized the momentum with a 33-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion pass failed, but the Tigers were getting the home crowd out of their seats as they trailed, 18-13.
The game was in doubt and La Junta kept Bayfield from getting a first down on its first two possessions of the second half, but the Wolverines broke it open on two successive plays to open the fourth quarter. Twedt caught his second long touchdown pass from Ross for 53 yards and a Zane Liddell kick made it 25-13 with 11:13 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Liddell’s kick bounced off of shoulder pads of a retreating blocker. Bayfield recovered the ball and the momentum.
The final score came on a Deegan Barnes one-yard run with 1:49 left.
Coach Heide, in his 10th season as head football coach at Bayfield, won his 72nd game, surpassing Butch Prior for the most wins in school history. Prior coached in the 1970s and 1980s, winning 71 games. Bayfield has been playing football since 1924.
For La Junta (3-4), Saturday’s loss practically eliminates any chance of making the 16-team playoffs.
The Wolverines (5-1 2-0) have now won five straight. They will travel to Cortez (3-4 1-1) for their third consecutive road game on Friday. The Wolverines could clinch the league title with a win.