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Why Bayfield football will beat Durango for the first time

Home-field pride, toolbox full of playmakers will propel Wolverines

Durango High School has nearly a three-times larger student body than Bayfield High School. The smaller school won’t have trouble keeping up on the football field Friday night.

Bayfield’s varsity football team has never beat Durango. That could change when the Wolverines welcome the Demons to town at 7 p.m. Friday. It’s homecoming for Bayfield, and more history is on the line than an 0-14-1 all-time record against Durango. Bayfield has won 15 consecutive games at home and could match the program record of 16.

“We have a lot of pride in that home field,” BHS head coach Gary Heide said. “The community has a lot of pride, and we have a lot of great players. We’re always excited to play in front of our home fans because the community supports us so well. We want to pay them back a bit.”

A win Friday would be ultimate payback for the purple and gold faithful. Football historian Dan Ford expects the largest crowd in Bayfield history to show up for Friday’s game. While that might add extra pressure for some teams, this Bayfield squad is no ordinary unit.

This team has seen this matchup before in last year’s 14-6 overtime loss at Durango. The Wolverines have had a year to stew about that loss with ideas of redemption on their home field a year later. The nerves of playing the Demons have been washed away, and a massive group of upperclassmen have experienced playing in the biggest games, including the 2015 state championship victory, last year’s Durango game and the 2016 state semifinals. “Over the years, we’ve played a lot of big football games,” Heide said. “We’ve had a lot of success treating each one of them like it is the biggest game of the season.”

Of course, the Durango game isn’t the biggest game on the schedule for a Wolverines team with state title aspirations. But with local bragging rights at stake and history on the line, the team has prepared with intense focus.

An advantage for the Wolverines came in the form of a bye last week while Durango went on the road for the first time and lost 34-7 at Farmington. Coach Heide said his team was grumpy not having a game to play last week, but that allowed the team a chance to scout the Demons in person. In fact, the Wolverines have been able to see every Durango game this season thanks to schedules leaving the teams playing at different times. Bayfield purple hasn’t been hard to find at Durango games, but Demon red hasn’t been very visible in Bayfield.

The biggest difference in the game will be playmakers, and Bayfield has plenty of them. Though star running back and linebacker David Hawkins will be sidelined with a knee injury, the Wolverines still have so many weapons that it will be hard to give all of them at least 10 touches of the ball. And Durango’s coaches are more leery of Hunter Killough running the ball than they were of Hawkins.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Killough said. “I know if I run hard and we play our game, we will have success. I gotta get my 3 yards per carry and keep drives going with the power game. It hurts to lose Dave because he’s a lot bigger than I am, but we have the guys ready to step up.”

Durango would make a big mistake to overlook Carl Heide. He leads the Wolverines with 225 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, and he has another 136 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. He’s a balanced, athletic runner who has shown all-state level play so far this season.

The two teams may match each other in defensive prowess, but Bayfield has the better offense with a proven quarterback in Hayden Farmer to compliment the run game.

Durango has played two quarterbacks at times this season with freshman Jordan Woolverton splitting time with senior Max Hyson the last two weeks. Hyson is a strong athlete the Wolverines are aware of, but the Demons will struggle to pass against the Wolverines.

Knowing about Bayfield’s dominant run defense, teams have opted to pass against the Wolverines this year. That hasn’t worked, either. The Wolveines have nine interceptions from eight different players this year, with Carl Heide leading the way with two. Those interceptions are a product of the best pass rush in Class 2A. Bayfield has 17 sacks in three games, with Ryan Phelps leading the charge with eight of his own. Cole Wood is a monster on the other side with another five sacks, and Wyatt Killinen has tormented opposing offenses with four sacks.

Durango will have to run the ball well against Bayfield, and no team has been able to do that in three years since Mike Wnorowski took over as defensive coordinator of the Wolverines. Stopping the run is Michael Kirk, Killough, Isaac Lorenzen, Kirk Malone, Wood and company. No matter the position on the field, the Wolverines have elite talent defensively.

“He’s incredible,” Phelps said of Wnorowski. “There isn’t an offense we’ve faced since he’s been here that he hasn’t figured out. If we give up a first down, he’s mad at us. Most coaches are mad when you give up a touchdown. If we give up a touchdown, then he’s really on us.”

Killough said goal-line defense will be key along with stopping the short passes of the Demons.

“Our middle backers Cole and Kirk are some of the best backers in the state,” he said. “We feel pretty comfortable in a head-to-head matchup with (Durango). We know they hit hard, we know Hyson hits hard, but we’re willing to take that bet.”

In a game that could be decided by one big play and stifling defense, the Wolverines have the playmakers and defense to beat the Demons.

Bayfield wins 19-14.

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