The Bayfield High School football team made a leap into the top spot in the RPI standings after a 22-14 win at Salida for the Intermountain League championship on Friday night, and the team stayed at No. 1 when the state playoff seeds were announced Sunday.
The defending state champion Wolverines were seeded as the No. 1 team in Colorado High School Activities Association's Class 2A State Football Playoffs. Bayfield leaped Resurrection Christian in the process. The Wolverines (7-1, 4-0 IML) will host fellow IML foe No. 16 Montezuma-Cortez in the first round of the playoffs at 6 p.m. Friday night at Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield. BHS has won 23 consecutive home games and 21 in a row against league foes.
Bayfield, which also won the state title in 2015 and 1996, will start their playoff journey with a chance to win consecutive titles.
Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said that, after Friday night, he knew Bayfield might have a shot to move up to the top slot, but he was still unsure.
"I knew we had the No. 2 RPI ranking and also knew that we might have gotten a shot (at the No. 1 spot) because of the win over Salida, but, regardless of where we ended up, we're just excited it's this time of the season," Heide said. "We're just trying to take it one game at a time. There were no big surprises, and CHSAA has always tried to do what's best for everybody. Cortez is on the rise, and they're much improved from the last time we played them."
The seedings were determined by CHSAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), and the Wolverines finished with a 0.718660 percentage and had the second-best strength of schedule among Class 2A teams.
Montezuma-Cortez (4-5, 1-3 IML) and the Wolverines already met earlier this season when they played three weeks ago at Wolverine Country Stadium. Bayfield won in convincing fashion, 39-3.
But Heide knows that his team can't take the rankings for granted.
"They'll have this extra week to get better," Heide said. "But we know that they've got some good athletes, are hard-hitting and will be hungry. We have to play our game and can't turn over the ball like we did last week. We want to stay focused and feel the excitement of the playoffs, but we've got to get better everyday. No matter what week of the season it is, it's tough to beat a team two times."
In the matchup earier this year, the Wolverines capitalized on a key fumble recovery and two touchdown passes in the first quarter of the game.
"It doesn't happen like that all of the time," Heide said. "We have to be prepared for if they don't make mistakes; we have to be prepared if we aren't making the big plays; we have to be prepared for any situation that is thrown our way. They're not going to come into this game to go home and be done. They're going to be an excellent test for us."
Also in the Wolverines' quadrant is La Junta, who lost to Bayfield last season for the state championship. This year, the Tigers finished the regular season undefeated at 9-0. The Tigers were seeded No. 4 and will play No. 13 Berthoud in their first-round matchup. Bayfield and La Junta are on track to square off in the semifinals.
The winner of the Bayfield-Montezuma-Cortez matchup will play the winner of two Front Range teams in No. 8 Kent Denver (8-1) or No. 9 Faith Christian (7-2). The other two teams on Bayfield's side of the bracket are two teams the Wolverines already faced this year, fifth-ranked Salida (8-1) and No. 12 Aspen (6-3).
On the other side of the bracket, there will be tough matchups. No. 2 Resurrection Christian (9-0) will host Alamosa (4-4), and No. 3 Basalt (8-1) will square off against No. 14 D'Evelyn (7-2). Rounding out that side of the bracket is No. 6 Platte Valley, who will face No. 11 Delta, and No. 7 Rifle will square off against No. 10 Eaton.
Bayfield has not lost in the first round of the playoffs since the 2014 season, when it lost to Faith Christian.
Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. Friday at Wolverine Country Stadium.