Bayfield High School won the Class 2A football state championship and expected all the honors that come along with winning a title. Thursday morning, the Wolverines were stunned.
When the Colorado High School Activities Association released its all-state teams, as selected by the state's coaches, La Junta junior quarterback Jon Nuschy was named the Class 2A player of the year.
Nuschy finished the year with 679 passing yards and nine touchdowns to go with four interceptions and a completion percentage of 53.1. He was much more effective as a rusher, as he led the team with 1,397 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. But, in the 34-7 loss at Bayfield in the state championship game Nov. 25, Nuschy was held to negative 33 rushing yards and 60 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked nine times by the Wolverines, who set the new Colorado single-season sack record with 65 sacks on the year. The team was led by Ryan Phelps' 24 sacks, also a new Colorado single-season record, and Phelps had four sacks in the state title game. Bayfield players on social media expressed their frustration with Nuschy's selection. But the Wolverines had several players worthy of selection and likely split votes while Nuschy likely racked up second-place votes.
"I want to go ahead and say Mr. Nuschy deserves what awards he's gotten," said Bayfield head coach Gary Heide, who was named the coach of the year. "I support that young man 100 percent. He's a great athlete and led the La Junta Tigers to great things this year.
"I feel, based on the results of our entire team and how we went 13-0, the scores of the games, how we won each game, I do know that there are a few players on our team that are the best players I saw this year in 2A."
The argument can be made that Nuschy wasn't even the best quarterback in Class 2A in 2017. Bayfield junior quarterback Hayden Farmer passed for 35 touchdowns and 2,090 yards to go with a 58.6 completion percentage and 11 interceptions.
"Both commanded their offenses," Heide said of the two quarterbacks. "Both are great athletes. Hayden is a prolific passer in my estimation. We held him out of running entirely this year, but next year we can get him more involved in that."
Farmer was named to the Class 2A second team. First team selections for Bayfield included Carl Heide, Hunter Killough, Phelps and Cole Wood.
Carl Heide led the Wolverines in rushing with 920 yards. He had 10 rushing touchdowns and averaged 8.7 yards per carry. He also had 476 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Defensively, he finished with five interceptions and 36 tackles.
Killough was deserving of player of the year votes along with Phelps. He had a team-high 147 tackles, including 13 for a loss and one sack. He had seven interceptions, the most in Class 2A. Offensively, Killough rushed for 701 yards and nine touchdowns, and he caught 10 passes for 231 yards and five more touchdowns.
Wood finished the year with 14½ sacks on defense to tie for fifth most in the state regardless of classification. He also played on the offensive line and was the best left guard in the state. He finished with 130 tackles, 27½ of which went for losses. He also had an interception in the state title game.
Second-team honors for Bayfield went to Farmer, David Hawkins, Wyatt Killinen and Kirk Malone.
Hawkins missed a few games on defense and half of the season offensively with a knee injury. He had one interception, three sacks and 47 tackles from his outside linebacker position. Rushing the ball, Hawkins finished the year with 596 yards and six touchdowns with an average of 6.7 yards per carry. He also had one reception, an 11-yard touchdown.
Killinen was a force on both sides of the ball as a linebacker and right guard. He had 65 tackles, 12 of which went for a loss including nine sacks.
Malone had 111 tackles with 23 going for a loss. He had four sacks and a fumble recovery.
Dax Snooks was the Wolverines' lone honorable mention selection. Inexcusably, Snooks was relegated to honorable mention despite hauling in 15 touchdown passes as a wide receiver. His 15 TD receptions led Class 2A and ranked fourth in the state regardless of classification. He grabbed 38 passes for 640 yards. Defensively, Snooks also was a key player with five interceptions, including four in the opening-round playoff win against Elizabeth. He had 47 tackles.
"I don't know if it's shocking because it's kind of expected the way the system works," coach Heide said. "I expected some Bayfield players wouldn't get full recognition. We have so many of them, and you don't know who it's going to be. I already told the players I've seen today to be gracious and proud of whatever all-state award you've earned. Their play was that of a first team all-state level, and I want them all to know that."
Durango High SchoolThe Demons saw two players receive all-state honors in Class 3A with Ryan Barkley and Adam Short landing on the second team. The duo played key parts of the Demons' offensive and defensive lines.
Barkley, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior, anchored the offensive line from his left tackle position, and Short, a 6-2, 200-pound senior, led the Demons with five sacks and was a run stuffer from his defensive end position.
"Adam, he was a player we could put on one side of the field and he'd shut it down. By the end of the year, he was playing the wide side of the field for us," DHS head coach David Vogt said. "Ryan was kind of the same thing for us on offense. He was an offensive leader, and whenever we needed to get those tough yards, we'd run behind him."
Vogt said he was surprised to see Barkley and Short were the only players to earn all-state accolades and thought seniors Manasseh Brockus, Max Hyson and Gavin Mestas should have been included, especially considering Hyson was named the 3A South Central League defensive player of the year.
"(Hyson) was the defensive MVP of our league, and I don't know how that doesn't transfer over to all-state. I thought that was a given. That really surprised me," Vogt said. "Again, being in Durango, I guess it's the lack of respect we get down here being in the corner of the state."
Barkley, Brockus, Hyson, Mestas and Short were all first team selections in the South Central league, as were Alex Hise and Dawson Marcum.
Colby Bayse, Max Congdon, Kye Engle, Everett Howland and Jordan Woolverton were honorable mention in the South Central League. Woolverton also was named the Colorado Prep Report freshman of the year.