The Bayfield High School football team may have a 1-3 record going into league play. But the Wolverines are looking at their season from a 0-0 perspective.
“Our first four games, they obviously didn’t go the way we’d like,” head coach Gary Heide said. “So, our rallying cry now is that all the teams are 0-0 in league play. We know this is an opportunity to kind of get back to that winning attitude and build positive feelings. All it takes is one great Friday night effort in Alamosa, and we can still have great goals for the rest of the season.
“Every league game right now is a playoff game. Whoever wins league is going to be invited to the playoffs. No. 2 is never assured. For us, it’s playoffs.”
Bayfield has won four consecutive Class 2A Intermountain League championships. A fifth will be a tough test with the Wolverines set to go into kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at a resurgent Alamosa team with title hopes of its own.
At 3-1, the Mean Moose are ranked in the most recent Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A poll at No. 10. A stunning 22-6 road win at current No. 8 and previously top-ranked La Junta has Alamosa feeling good about its chances to go from 4-5 overall and 1-3 in league play a year ago to the top of the IML by season’s end.
Heide said film has revealed a rejuvenated Mean Moose team under new head coach Drew Sandlin.
“The new head coach has done a fantastic job there,” Heide said. “They’ve got great athletes with good size. Their skill players are very well-sized. Their quarterback, he’s not so tall, but he’s very stout and a great ballplayer. They’re playing with confidence and energy.”
That quarterback is senior Brendon Madril, who the Wolverines are familiar with from previous meetings. This season, he has thrown for 709 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has thrown seven interceptions and has completed only 49.5% of his passes.
Madril also can get it done on the ground, as he has rushed for 131 yards and five more TDs, and he has averaged four yards per carry.
“They’ve got a great quarterback, and he can run the ball and pass the ball,” Heide said. “They do some form of the read option. They spread it out, but they like to run, too. We can’t get lulled into thinking that because they run a spread formation that they’re gonna pass. That quarterback is a real ballplayer, and we gotta be ready for all phases of the game.”
The Mean Moose are led in the run game by senior Luke Smith, who has 349 rushing yards and two TDs. He has averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Cash Mueller, a junior, also has two rushing scores this year with 18 carries for 122 yards.
Madril has two go-to targets in the receiving game. Brenden Crowther, a senior, has team highs in receptions and yards with 17 grabs for 336 yards. Ian Jackson, another senior, has snagged five TD passes as part of 14 catches for 235 yards.
Defensively, the Mean Moose are led in tackling by Mueller and sophomore Donovan Ramirez. Alamosa had nine sacks this year, led by junior Kane Absmeier, who has four. The Mean Moose also have forced nine turnovers in four games with three interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
The Wolverines will enter the game eager to forget a 55-0 home loss to Durango last week in which the offense had only one first down in the first half. The team’s best drive came at the end of the game when Brecken Espinosa checked into the game and had a pair of first-down runs.
Espinosa, a backup QB and receiver, will move to fullback this week for the beat-up Wolverines. That will allow Kobe Prior to move back to the offensive line, another area in which the Wolverines are missing key players.
“Prior is so intelligent. He’s only a sophomore, but he plays with the intelligence of a well-seasoned high school football player,” Heide said. “Whatever you ask him to do, he does it 100% and excels. To have him back on the line is real good for our team.”
Skill-wise, sophomore quarterback Isaac Ross, who has one rushing TD and one passing TD this season, will look to establish the offense early along with leading rusher Cael Schaefer, who has three rushing scores this year.
Heide is hopeful to get four or five players back from injury this week after being down nine to 11 players last week, he said.
“Having guys back will help us with stability,” Heide said. “It’s good to get guys back in practice situations in the positions they know so we’re not teaching new positions in the middle of the year.”
After wins against Monte Vista, La Junta and Mitchell, the Mean Moose fell 48-25 last week at Lamar. Heide said Alamosa was without five starters in the first quarter of that game in which Lamar built a 28-0 lead. Heide said Lamar had success using its speed to get to the edges of the field on jet sweeps, and his offense likes to do much of the same.
Last season, the Wolverines made it four consecutive league championships with a gutsy overtime win against Pagosa Springs before a second-half comeback win at Salida. Alamosa was an afterthought in 2018, when the Wolverines trounced the Mean Moose 30-6.
The Wolverines have won 21 consecutive league contests and are 22-2 since the IML was formed in 2014. A win Friday night in Alamosa would give Bayfield the confidence it needs for the second half of the season.
“When you face a league opponent, you always go in with the mindset that you can win the game,” Heide said.