Bayfield High School football head coach Gary Heide was in good spirits heading into the final week of the regular season, as the Wolverines will look to end 2019 on a high note.
The Wolverines (3-5, 2-1 2A Intermountain League) are virtually out of Class 2A playoff contention after last week’s loss to Pagosa Springs, but they can end strong with a win against Salida at 7 p.m. today in Wolverine Country Stadium.
Bayfield has yet to win at home this season at 0-4 and has been outscored 207-32 in the process. BHS will hope to break the losing skid behind a strong performance from its senior class.
Maybe no one will be more excited to see the field than senior running back Dylan Hilliker, who missed the season with a broken foot. Heide said there’s a strong possibility he will see action.
“For a Monday after a tough loss, we had very good attitudes today,” Heide said. “It’s going to be senior night, and there’s a possibility that Dylan Hilliker will get in for a few plays, as he’s been cleared to play. It will be good to have him back. He’s been such a huge part of this team, and it will be an emotional lift for all of us.”
While the Wolverines will undoubtedly be excited to have Hilliker back, Heide said the team is equally focused on beating the Spartans. Salida (1-7, 1-2 IML) earned its first win of the season last Friday in a 34-27 win over Montezuma-Cortez.
Salida’s Zayne Walker has thrown for 1,072 yards, 10 touchdown passes and has been intercepted five times. The Spartans have just two rushing touchdowns, as sophomore Braden Collins has 170 rushing yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. Walker is the team’s second-leading rusher with 128 yards on 61 carries.
Salida has a dangerous receiving group, as Ben Fuller leads the Spartans with 546 yards and eight touchdowns on 26 receptions. Collins has 239 yards on 12 receptions and two TDs.
“Salida can be pretty tough,” Heide said. “They run the same offense, but our defensive coaches feel prepared for it, and I think our defense will be ready for it, as well. They have a few good players. Their fullback is pretty big and strong, and they’ve got a pretty shifty quarterback, as well. They’ve got three or more all-conference players. We can’t take it lightly, and we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Bayfield will look to end its season strong with sophomore quarterback Isaac Ross at the helm. He has thrown for 572 yards and seven TDs along with four interceptions. He has completed 38% of his passes. Sophomore running back Cael Schaefer has continued to be Bayfield’s go-to back, with 545 yards on 103 carries. He has scored seven times. Cade Carlson has been a nice complement, as he has rushed for 259 yards on 53 carries. He has also found the end zone twice. BHS’ leading receiver is junior Crosby Edwards, who has caught three TDs and 10 total passes for 223 yards. He leads the team in yards per game with 37.2.
Heide said he has been impressed with how far the offense has come since the start of the season.
“It was a season of unknowns coming in,” Heide said. “I knew we’d have a big challenge, and we weren’t going to be the strongest team in BHS history, but we’re still a very good team. We were relying on Isaac to develop, and he certainly has. Our offensive line has taken the bull by the horns and led the way for us. It’s led to avenues such as Cael having a breakout year. Cade Carlson and James Mars have had good years, too. It’s been a big boost, and Kalon Mead and Crosby are always a threat for receivers. Our offense has grown really nicely, and we’ve scored on all phases of the game. We haven’t relied on just one player like in years past, and it’s been a healthy mix. We’re looking to use this group for one more time at least.”
Heide said this week there will be a particular emphasis on the senior class, which helped the Wolverines to a state championship in 2017 and a quarterfinal appearance last season.
“I just want it to be positive,” Heide said. “A positive week pf practice and positive experience, and end up positive at home. I want them to feel happy and good when they walk off that field. This group has put in a lot of hard work, and they certainly deserve to feel that way after walking off of their home field for the final time.”