Overheard telling fellow kick-return personnel he was "gonna take it all the way," Hunter Killough was ready to punish Montezuma-Cortez for...well, something.
However, the Panthers won the pregame coin toss and elected to receive, denying the Bayfield senior a chance to walk the walk or run the run. It proved their best way of defending him last Saturday; as the 2A Intermountain action played out, a kick-return touchdown would have been akin to bringing sand to a beach.
Complementing his work as part of a defensive unit which hounded and hammered M-CHS quarterback Ike Dennison almost at will, Killough rushed for four TDs offensively. He also collected an 11-yard Hayden Farmer toss to the back corner of the end zone, enacting the CHSAA-mandated, running-clock 'mercy rules' with 8:55 left in the fourth quarter and standing as the final points of a 56-12 blowout.
"I lost the ball in the sun! I just jumped up and prayed- and then it hit my hands and I grabbed it," he said with an amazed laugh. "Came down with it and tried to stick my foot as far out in front of me as I could, and when I turned around and saw the ref going 'Touchdown!' I said, 'I got it!'"
Motoring 36 yards on the seventh play of an initial 80-yard drive following Dennison's first of seven punts, Killough got the #2-ranked Wolverines (6-0, 2-0 Intermountain) on Panther Stadium's scoreboard first with 5:58 remaining in the opening quarter, and matters only worsened for the home team.
Following a three-and-out and Dennison punt, BHS covered 76 yards in just four plays, with Farmer connecting with senior Dawson Heide for a 53-yard TD with 3:36 remaining. Senior Chris Mooney's second point-after kick split the uprights, doubling the visitors' lead to 14-0.
Mooney then kicked off, angling the ball deep along the Bayfield sideline. But when the nearest M-CHS player simply walked away from the ball, thinking a Wolverine's touch would deaden it - a la a punt - BHS senior Dax Snooks covered what was in effect an onside kick, setting the guests up at the hosts' 14-yard line with 3:24 left.
Three seconds later, Farmer zipped the ball right back into Snooks' hands, and Mooney's third PAT in as many tries inflated Bayfield's pad to a most comfortable 21-nil.
"I have athletes all over the field," stated Farmer. I've just got to find the open one, and throw it, because I know I've got athletes that are going to make plays-on that last one (Killough), with Dax, with all my receivers! It's fun for me."
Following a BHS recovery of Panther Jacob Schuster's first-down fumble with 9:12 left in the second quarter, Killough kept the pain train rolling with an immediate 1-yard plunge, and senior Garrett Beebe somehow reined in Farmer's two-point conversion toss through defensive back Tyler Wilson's arms.
Rarely with even two seconds afforded him to make a decision, Dennison finally led Montezuma-Cortez (1-4, 0-2) on a scoring drive, completing an all-pass, 6-play, 76-yard push with a six-yard dart to junior Cole Herrmann and 7:30 left before halftime.
BHS junior David Hawkins, however, blocked the extra point to keep the score 29-6, where it stood entering halftime after Bayfield's two subsequent series in the unsatisfying quarter died on downs.
"The second quarter was pathetic, we just didn't play our game," said Farmer, who was intercepted by Vincent Conklin inside the M-CHS 10 on the Wolverines' first drive of the second quarter. "We came out strong, but overall I didn't think we played the best."
"Lots of little things," Killough agreed. "We started to get pretty sloppy today."
Panthers Matthew Broughton and Swayde Noyes each recovered a fumble before the sunny day was done, but Killough and Heide each intercepted Dennison, making for matching 3:3 turnover ratios. Bayfield senior Carl Heide had a 75-yard punt-return TD wiped out by penalty late in the third quarter as well, but the team would complete a resulting 8-play, 67-yard surge with an 11-yard Killough burst and 11:41 left in the rout.
"They were blowing holes you could drive a truck through; it was fun running today," Killough said, tipping his cap to the offensive line. "I was picking up my first three yards without getting touched, and then it was my job to just beat a safety most of the time."
Unofficially, Killough totaled 169 yards on 19 carries and even spent one play spelling Farmer (13-of-20, 228 yards, 4 TD, INT) under center before true backup Kendal Widger (1-of-2, 19 yards passing; 1-10 rushing) polished off BHS' penultimate series.
Carl Heide unofficially logged 64 yards on nine carries and Dawson Heide 32 on six. Snooks grabbed five passes for 65 yards, while Carl Heide caught three for 68. Dylan Hilliker rushed six times for 32 yards and also caught two passes for 17 yards, and - by design - senior guard Cole Wood picked up 10 yards on one carry.
Unofficially, Dennison finished 14-of-40 passing for 159 yards, with junior Cordell Baer catching nine throws for 120 yards. Including a sliding three-yard TD (with 6:27 left in the third), Conklin totaled 33 yards on four receptions and Herrmann finished with just the aforementioned six on one.
Collectively, M-CHS was held to minus-18 yards rushing with Dennison finishing 4-for-(-17), Schuster 5-(-4) and Conklin 1-3.
"We tried a different defense today; we went for a 4-front.had some kids who didn't run it last year that are trying to run it this year," explained Killough. "Having four linemen, with David as one of them, put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and that just allowed everyone else to make plays."
"We started to lose focus," he added, addressing the opponent's knack for quick-pass progression downfield, "but it was good for us...so we can learn to run all four quarters and play our hearts out."
"We've got three more league games, but it's 'playoffs' for us," Farmer said. "Three tough teams, and we've got to go out and show what's the best team in the state."
Up next, Bayfield will host surprising Pagosa Springs (4-2, 2-0) this Friday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m.
"Really looking forward to the next three games," said Snooks. "They're going to be a little trickier than we thought, really making us feel like we need to get our heads on straight."