Up against the top run defense in the state, Elizabeth gambled on passing to try to beat Bayfield. It didn't work.
Dax Snooks hauled in four interceptions and returned two for touchdowns to double the team's defensive scores this season. The Wolverines also forced and recovered two fumbles Saturday at Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield. The defensive performance, paired with a sharp showing from the offense, led No. 3 Bayfield to a 51-0 win against No. 14 Elizabeth in the opening round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A State Football Playoffs.
BHS built a 41-0 lead at halftime to start the mercy-rule running clock. Snooks had three of his interceptions in the first half.
"We felt we were a better team and wanted to prove it right away and not let them get any momentum," BHS head coach Gary Heide said. "As far as offense, defense and special teams, that was the most complete half and a full game I've had an opportunity to coach."
Snooks' four interceptions is a new single-game record for the Wolverines. It broke the previous record of three set by Ben Ford in 1995.
"Four interceptions and two of them for touchdowns for Dax, that's gotta be some kind of record," Heide said. "It's a tribute to his great athleticism, awareness on the field and the 10 guys in front of him putting pressure on the quarterback to make those passes so he can go up there and get them."
Bayfield (10-0) didn't look past the Cardinals (6-4) in the first-ever meeting between the varsity football teams from the two schools. The team's win came less than an hour after No. 2 Kent Denver was stunned by No. 15 Resurrection Christian, 29-21.
Bayfield and Kent Denver (9-1), the top-two teams in the Class 2A coaches poll all season, were on a collision course to meet in the semifinals, but Bayfield's side of the bracket opened up in a big way with the Sun Devils' loss. Bayfield senior Hunter Killough said the team was aware of the Kent Denver result after it was announced in the stadium.
"When we heard Kent Denver lost, we didn't refer to those two teams directly," coach Heide said about his team's talk at halftime. "We acknowledged that in the playoffs you're one and done, and if you overlook anyone that can happen to you. It's huge for 15- to 18-year-old boys that we did not overlook this Elizabeth Cardinal team."
No. 6 Basalt defeated No. 11 Salida 28-22. Basalt will travel to face Bayfield next Saturday.
There was never a question about Saturday's game. The Wolverines got the ball first and marched 73 yards in 12 plays to score their first touchdown. David Hawkins fumbled the ball across the goal line, and Carl Heide recovered it in the back of the end zone to secure the score.
Snooks snared his first interception on Elizabeth's first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Nicholas Ball had an errant pitch to running back Reece Ullery, who scooped up the ball and passed it down the field directly to Snooks.
"We knew they were going to be tough, fast, physical and aggressive," Elizabeth head coach Michael Zoesch said of the Bayfield defense. "We tried to take advantage of that early, we just couldn't connect on a few passes and couldn't protect (the quarterback) up front, either. They were rushing us too fast. They are a great defense."
Bayfield fumbled on its next possession but forced a quick three-and-out by Elizabeth and got the ball back on a punt. A few plays later, BHS quarterback Hayden Farmer hit Killough on a 70-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolverines a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
Bayfield quickly got the ball back, as Michael Kirk sacked Ball and stripped the football away. Isaac Lorenzen was there to recover the fumble, his first of two fumble recoveries in the game. The Wolverines then marched 64 yards and scored on a 1-yard run by Hawkins to go up 21-0.
With 6 minutes, 30 seconds to go in the second quarter, Snooks intercepted a Ball pass and returned it 32 yards. On the next play, Carl Heide ran up the middle and cut back left to go for a 43-yard touchdown.
Snooks recorded his third interception of the first half late in the second quarter. He ran it back for a touchdown to put the Wolverines up 35-0.
Elizabeth then was forced to punt back to Bayfield after another quick series of downs. After a Cardinals punt, the Wolverines quickly tried to get the running clock going with another score. Farmer threw up a wobbly pass in traffic down the middle of the field, but Dawson Heide soared into the air and made the catch. He then broke away from the defense and scored on the 65-yard play to give BHS a 41-0 lead before halftime.
Farmer finished 6-of-7 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
In the second half, with the clock running the entire 24 minutes, BHS added points on a 40-yard Chris Mooney field goal and another Snooks interception returned for a touchdown. Mooney's 40-yard field goal also is a new Bayfield record. The previous longest field goal in team history was 39 yards kicked in 1988 by Levi Siffert.
Mooney, who joined the team for his senior season after converting from soccer, is now 3-of-4 on field goal tries this year and has come on strong the final month of the season.
"Chris Mooney, what a great kicker to have," coach Heide said. "Now we have another weapon going into next week."
Elizabeth finished with negative rushing yards in the game. The Cardinals entered with more than 2,200 rushing yards this season, with Ullery leading the way with 1,250 yards. Ullery was held to negative yards. The entire defensive line smothered the Cardinals offense, and Kirk
Malone made several huge hits. Hawkins also hit Ball hard in the second half to force a fumble Lorenzen would recover, and Ball never returned to the game after staying down on the turf.
"We love the challenge," Killough said of facing a 1,000-yard rusher. "It amps us up to another level when we know we got someone who thinks they can run on us. It gets the defense hyped, and we play even better with that energy."
Killough said he felt Elizabeth give up after Snooks' second interception, especially as the pressure kept getting to Ball.
"We were expecting them to throw it more than they have because that's what teams try to do on us because our run defense is so good," Snooks said. "But I never expected to have four interceptions like that."
Basalt will bring another 1,000-yard rusher, senior Noah Williams, to Bayfield next Saturday. The Wolverines have shut down 1,000 yard rushers every opportunity the last two seasons and will have another shot in the quarterfinals.
After Snooks' four interceptions Saturday, the Wolverines now have 25 interceptions in 10 games this season.
"I don't think there is an offense in the state that we will be afraid to go against," Snooks said. "Our run defense is killer, and the pass defense is coming together."