The record-setting Bayfield Wolverines will march into the semifinals with a defense as good as any in program history.
No. 3 Bayfield High School recorded its fourth consecutive shutout and seventh of the season Saturday in the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A State Football Playoffs quarterfinals. Hayden Farmer passed for five touchdowns, including three to Dax Snooks, and the Wolverines blasted No. 6 Basalt 41-0 at Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield.
Bayfield (11-0) will travel to face No. 15 Resurrection Christian in the semifinals next week in Loveland. Resurrection Christian continued its upset streak a week after knocking No. 2 Kent Denver out in the first round with a 29-21 win. Saturday, Resurrection Christian beat No. 7 Faith Christian 28-25. If Bayfield can beat Resurrection Christian on the road, the state championship game will come to Bayfield with the winner of No. 4 La Junta and No. 8 Eaton on the visitor's sideline. Eaton upset No. 1 Platte Valley 9-6 on Saturday, and La Junta beat No. 5 The Classical Academy 21-14.
"We gotta be ready to go no matter who it is," BHS head coach Gary Heide said of next week's game. "There are four teams left, and you don't look at the seed in front of their name now. It's go win and try to get to the championship."
Bayfield's defense is a championship defense. It has only allowed 49 points in 11 games this season. The four consecutive shutouts match a record set in 1964, when the Wolverines recorded four in a row to start that season.
"It means a lot to us," Bayfield senior linebacker Cole Wood said of the shutouts. "I'm really confident in our defense. Every week we go deeper in the playoffs and still shut them out. It's impressive, and we definitely enjoy it."
Basalt (9-2) had chances in the first half. The Longhorns got inside the Bayfield 20-yard line twice, but penalties and sacks kept them off the scoreboard. In the second quarter, with Bayfield leading 7-0, the Longhorns attempted a 39-yard field goal, but Raul Torres' kick was blocked by Keyon Prior and scooped up by Bayfield's Carl Heide. A few plays later, Bayfield was in the end zone on a 16-yard TD pass from Farmer to Prior to go up 14-0 with 5 minutes, 18 seconds to play in the first half. Basalt was finished, and the Wolverines were only getting started.
"Early in the game, once momentum goes in high school, they were able to tee off and hurt us a bit," said Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs. "They were the best defense we've played all year."
Basalt entered the game with one of the top rushing attacks in the state with more than 2,300 yards as a team. Noah Williams, a senior, led that group with more than 1,300 yards. For the fifth consecutive time, the Wolverines held a 1,000 yard rusher to under 50 yards. Williams finished with 30 yards on 17 carries.
"Hats off to coach (Gary) Heide and his whole staff," Frerichs said. "They did a great job scouting us and did some great things with their game inside. They have really stout kids inside. Their front seven or eight, depending on where (Hunter Killough) lines up, they're the real deal."
Bayfield's offense struggled to get going in the first quarter, and the two teams were scoreless going into the second. It was the passing game of Bayfield that got the offense going. Farmer completed three consecutive passes down the field and finished a drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Snooks to cap a six-play, 54-yard drive that gave Bayfield a 7-0 lead with 9:57 to go in the first half. The drive came after a Bayfield punt by Ryan Phelps that rolled and was downed on the Basalt 1-yard line. After a quick defensive stand, Basalt punted and set up the Wolverines with great field position.
The blocked field goal set up the next Bayfield score on the pass to Prior. Wood said he felt the block provided a spark to the Wolverines, and seeing Prior, who missed much of the season with a nagging turf toe injury, get into the end zone also gave the team a boost.
"I've been waiting," Prior said. "I love playing with my boys, whether I'm 50 percent or 100 percent. I've got such great teammates supporting me through thick and thin. I love them and our brotherhood."
After Prior's touchdown catch, the Wolverines' defense got another quick stop thanks to a relentless pass rush on Basalt quarterback Trevor Reuss. David Hawkins capitalized on Bayfield's next possession with a 39-yard TD run to give the Wolverines a 21-0 lead before halftime.
As has been the case all year, the Wolverines finished their opponent in the third quarter. Basalt went three-and-out on its first series to start the second half. One play after taking over on their own 40-yard line, Farmer hit Prior on a 60-yard TD pass for the duo's second TD connection of the game. Prior hauled in the pass near the left sideline, cut back right behind some blockers and followed right guard Wyatt Killinen down the field for the last block that got him into the end zone that increased the lead to 28-0.
"Hayden gets me the ball right where it needs to be," Prior said. "It's fun to turn around after and get a score. Me and Hayden have had this connection since we were little kids, and it's great when he puts the ball right on me."
After another Basalt punt, the Wolverines went into the end zone again on a three-play, 77-yard drive capped with a 73-yard TD pass from Farmer to Snooks. It was their 12th TD connection of the season, and Snooks set a new single-season program record to pass Brian Mashak's previous mark off 11 set during the 2016 season.
The two weren't done. After a Prior interception of Reuss gave the Wolverines the ball on the Basalt 8-yard line, Farmer hit Snooks on an 8-yard touchdown pass to push the record to 13 and the score to 41-0.
"Dax is one of the best receivers in the state, and I think the whole state knows it," Farmer said. "It's easy to get the ball to him when the O-line is kicking butt in the trenches and giving me time."
Farmer had all day to throw. He finished the game 11-of-14 passing for 226 yards and the five touchdowns. He threw TD passes on four of his last five passes.
"We were gonna come in with our normal game plan of power running," Farmer said. "We came in, the third drive we started picking them apart and I said, 'All right, we're rolling now.' I knew coach was coming back to me to get the job done, and we got the job done."
Farmer checked out in the fourth quarter after rolling his ankle on a botched extra-point attempt. Farmer is the holder on field goals and was hit by a couple of Basalt players while he was kneeling on the ground. Farmer iced his ankle the rest of the game but walked without a limp off the field and said he will be ready to go next week.
Bayfield only ran the ball 13 times in the game for 88 yards. Basalt totaled 47 rushing yards. Reuss was 9-of-19 passing for 90 yards and two interceptions, including a first quarter interception by Killough.
Ryan Phelps, who celebrated his 18th birthday Saturday, had three sacks to push his state-leading total to 18. Two of those sacks included a forced fumble, though Basalt recovered both.
Michael Kirk was all over the field for the Wolverines to make big tackles, and Kirk Malone continued his dominance with several big tackles. Killinen also had a big sack.
"(Malone), he's about those big hits," Killough said. "He's a guy who you think you might be able to juke around, but if he gets anything on you, you're going down."
Bayfield has reached the semifinals for the third consecutive year. The Wolverines won the 2015 state championship and lost to eventual state-champion La Junta 13-12 on the road in last year's semifinal. That has been in the back of the minds of the Wolverines all season during their quest for a third football title in school history.
Bayfield will hope to return home for the state championship game, as the team has won a program record 19 consecutive games. First is taking care of Resurrection Christian.
"Obviously hosting a championship game is special," coach Heide said. "In the back of our minds, we've always felt like that's what we'd like to give the Bayfield community. Now that it's a possibility, it puts a chill down the spine. But we know what we face going up to Loveland. We are in the semifinal again where we lost last year, and that's a real driving force for us."
For Basalt, the loss ended the best season in program history.
"I can't be more proud of the kids," Frerichs said. "A school record for wins, back-to=back conference champs. We've done some things. We're frustrated right now, but when we get home we will realize we've done a lot of things to be proud of."