Whether it was an unintentional hyperbole or not, the lights went out inside Wolverine Country Stadium at Bayfield High School in the team’s home-opening loss to San Juan High School of Blanding, Utah.
During the midway point of the third quarter, the east stadium lights had a power box failure, and the teams played the remainder of the game with only half of the lights, but it was not the only bulb that burned out throughout the night for the Wolverines.
Broncos’ running back Kian Conway brought an end to Bayfield’s 24-game home winning streak, as he rushed for 145 yards on 18 carries and scored four times in the team’s 42-13 win. After conceding just 31 points inside Wolverine Country Stadium all of last season, Conway managed to score 35 in three quarters.
Bayfield head coach Gary Heide credited Conway for finding gaps in the defense and capitalizing.
“Offensively for San Juan, it was their physicality, and with a guy with a lot of speed and size in (Conway), and with a quarterback with a refined throw, I think that was the number one obstacle and the thing we couldn’t stop tonight,” Heide said. “He’s just a heck of a running back, who was able to get outside, had some speed, and we couldn’t stop them.”
The Broncos (2-1) got on the board first, after quarterback Shaw Nielson led the high-flying offense on a 17-play, 71-yard drive. On fourth-and-goal, Nielson went right up the middle for the score, and San Juan took an early 7-0 lead.
San Juan head coach Barkley Christiansen said it was just the start his team needed on the road.
“Setting the tone was all about getting good blocking and executing plays like they’ve done all summer,” Christiansen said. “The first drive was big for us to get on the board. Kian has been bottled up the past two games, and he’s been super frustrated. I’ve been telling him that he was going to break through, and tonight he did.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Bayfield’s James Mottin lost the football, and the Broncos recovered deep in Bayfield territory. Three plays later, BHS senior John Foutz knocked the ball loose from a Broncos wide receiver, and the Wolverines got the ball back. It was one of the few bright spots of the first half, as the Wolverines managed one first down and punted six times.
Later in the first quarter, Conway scored from 16-yards out. It was 14-0 after the first.
In the second, Bayfield’s second turnover of the half came when a punt took a strange bounce off of a Wolverine helmet and was recovered by San Juan. Conway scored on the ensuing play.
After another BHS punt, Conway put the exclamation point on the first half after he ran it right up the middle for a 66-yard score.
“My line did a really good job tonight, and when you see a hole like that, you just have to run your hardest, and I took the chance and that long run was really special,” Conway said.
Nielson added his only touchdown pass of the night when he found wide-open wide receiver Ryan Imlay in the right corner of the end zone. At halftime, San Juan led 35-0.
In the second half, Bayfield’s defense kept San Juan’s offense at bay, as it forced five punts, but Conway scored his fourth TD early in the quarter.
Bayfield (0-1) scored twice in the second half. The first was a 2-yard run from Isaac Ross with 10:14 remaining in the third quarter. In the second half, the Wolverines saw much improvement on offense, as Cade Carlson was able to churn his legs upfield for steady gains. Dawson French scored in the final minute of regulation after he saw a seam up the middle, broke two tackles and spun away from a third for a 45-yard score.
“We just picked up our blocking, and we were focusing on our passes a lot in that first half,” said Carlson, who finished with 10 carries for 52 yards. “We just switched it up to do a play that we didn’t do in the game, and that’s what started it for us. From there, we were able to get yards over and over again.”
Also leading the Wolverines was Cael Schaefer, who had 28 yards on six carries. Ross finished 5-of-18 passing for 31 yards in his varsity debut.
The Wolverines will travel to Aspen (0-0) for the Skiers’ season-opener at noon next Saturday at Aspen High School.
Heide knows there is plenty to work on heading into Week 2, and with most of the season remaining, he is still optimistic.
“It just wasn’t our night tonight,” Heide said. “I do think some of the things we missed tonight will come together. Our guarantee is to be a better football team this week and every week after. We’ll get after it this week at practice.”