It’s been 46 years since Hayden won a football state championship. That was 1972, when the school was playing 11-man football. It had been 30 years – 1988 – since the Lobos last appeared in a championship game before last Saturday night at Maricopa High School, where they were defeated by Superior in the 2018 1A State Championship, 70 – 20.
It won’t be another 30 years before Hayden’s next championship appearance. Heck, it might not be two.
“The program is building,” fourth-year Hayden head coach John Estrada said after his team was presented with the runner-up trophy. “Our junior-high program is teaching the same technique and fundamentals that we teach at high school. The future of Hayden; we’re back on the map. I predict we’re going to be here a few more times over the coming years.”
Saturday’s game, the second meeting of the season between the two teams, was never in doubt after Lobos’ sophomore quarterback A.J. Castillo tied the game, 6 – 6, on a 73-yard touchdown run to cap off his team’s first possession. Superior outscored Hayden 64 – 6 the rest of the way, including 52 – 6 before halftime.
“They’re an elite team,” Estrada said about the Panthers. “Their stud, Ybarra, he led that team to a championship.”
Unlike a Williams’ media outlet, which unfairly gave little to no credit to Lobos for their win against the Vikings in the semis a week ago, Estrada gave all the credit to his team for the transformation it made in just four years.
He cited senior leadership, leading by example, and a commitment to learning the Lobos’ system, working in the weight room, and attending passing leagues over the summer as reasons behind his team’s success.
“Four years ago, we won one game,” Estrada said. “With the four seniors that (we) had; from winning one game to making it to the championship when they’re seniors, that’s outstanding.
A roster of 14 players four years ago grew each year and included 28 players this season, setting the Lobos’ up for more success Estrada predicts.
“I’m so proud of these kids on how far they came this year,” he said. “They represented their community, high school and parents well. Also, I would like to thank all the Lobo fans for their support all season.”
Estrada was reminded of a quote by his former coach, Peter Guzman, after the Lobos’ defeat.
“Making it to the championship, there’s no losers,” said Estrada, quoting Guzman. “Unfortunately, there can only be one winner.”
The Lobos expect to be the “one” sooner than later.