Grand Valley hands Hayden its first loss
HAYDEN – Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson knows the season is far from over.Still, Friday’s 28-14 win against Hayden helps in more ways than one. The game gets the Cardinals back on the winning side of things after losing a heartbreaker to Paonia last week and, more importantly, it moves them into a three-way tie for first place with Paonia and Hayden in Class 1A’s Western Slope League. A loss would have put the Cardinals in third place a game behind Paonia and two behind Hayden. “It feels great,” Johnson said. “We’re in a great position. I think our kids played great tonight and I’m just proud of them.”In the first half, it looked like Hayden (6-1, 3-1 WSL) might stay undefeated. The Tigers outgained Grand Valley 173 yards to 31 and ran 16 more offensive plays. In spite of the substantial offensive difference, Hayden was able to take only a 7-6 lead into halftime. The Cardinals (6-1, 4-1 WSL) struck first though, when Richard Gallegos scored from two yards out to make it 6-0. The drive was set up when Hayden couldn’t convert on fourth-and-one from its own 34-yard line. The Tigers marched right back and put together a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped off by Mitchell Doolin’s one-yard on fourth-and-goal. Then something happened. Grand Valley, seemingly dead, snatched away the momentum on the fourth play of the second half when Gallegos found Tyler Jensen for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion made it 14-7.”Having a leader like Richard and having the one dependable receiver like Tyler really helps,” Johnson said. “Those two things combined really set us apart.”The Grand Valley passing game was what set the score apart in the second half. After not completing a pass in the first half, Gallegos went 7-for-7 for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His 30-yard strike to Danny Manzanares at the end of the third quarter put the Cardinals on top 21-7. On the ensuing possession, Hayden was driving when Doolin threw an interception after the receiver fell down. Seven plays later Manzanares scored from nine yards out to leave Hayden in a 28-7 hole. Doolin scored his second rushing touchdown of the night – this time from 25 yards out – but it was too little too late for the Tigers.With two league games left, Johnson said the Cardinals are in a position they want to be. “This one feels good,” Johnson said, “but we’ve got work to do.”
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.