Joe Hayden hasn’t played football since his freshman year.
When he moved to Croswell-Lexington from Tennessee in January, he was talked into joining the team and started a receiver. He eventually moved to running back, but wasn’t the starter to begin the season.
After injuries to Austin Smith and Jacob Sergent, Hayden has his chance to be the running back last Friday against Almont.
To say he took advantage of the opportunity still wouldn’t do it justice. He took historical advantage of it, running for 403 yards while scoring five touchdowns while also producing an interception on defense.
“I remember just sprinting down the field and leaving people behind,” Hayden recalled from Cros-Lex’s 48-28 win over the Raiders.
To say the least, Hayden did plenty of that on Friday, but it’s also another game in his successful season with the 3-1 Pioneers. While surpassing 400 yards hasn’t been the norm, Hayden has had a big year for Cros-Lex with 730 rushing yards this season.
If it wasn’t for the offensive line of Damian Arnold, Daniel Barker, Keegan Galbraith, Keegan Biscorner and Zach Murray, Friday may have gone a little differently.
“If it wasn’t for them I definitely wouldn’t have gotten 403 yards,” Hayden said. “They did their job, and I did mine.”
Even though he hasn’t played football since his freshman year, Hayden’s intensity in the days leading up to kickoff have felt like he’s played his whole life.
“He’s the type of kid that’s 110 percent every play,” Cros-Lex head coach Garrett Grundman said. “He’s one of the kids that brings it to practice in any situation.”
The “bring it” attitude has been around the Pioneers program all season long, but it will have to be magnified this Friday as they travel to Algonac to face the 4-0 Muskrats.
While a Pioneers road win would put them right back into the mix of winning the BWAC title despite one loss, it also means they are one win closer to a playoff berth. With a tough schedule ahead, a victory on Friday would be the biggest of the year.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Hayden said. “It’s the difference between us and the playoffs, and it will put us a step up of where we believe we belong in the rankings.”