SARATOGA SPRINGS — The week of Eric Hayden’s first game as head coach of the Saratoga Springs varsity football team was certainly an eventful one.
On Thursday, Aug. 31, Hayden and his wife Danielle welcomed their second child, Bo Michael Hayden. The Haydens also have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Payton.
Less than two days later, Hayden was on the sideline for his first victory as the Blue Streaks’ head coach, a 35-7 win over Albany.
“Definitely an eventful week,” said Hayden. “Not a lot of sleeping, but a lot of great things happening. When you get to hold your baby boy for the first time, and everyone’s got good health coming out, that’s just an amazing experience.”
Hayden credited his assistant coaches for their help preparing for the season-opening win over the Falcons.
“Our staff is amazing, with John Barber, Jon Coons, and Craig Durant,” Hayden said. “They had everything set up, they were in a great spot. I tip my hat to them, because I couldn’t do it without them.”
Prior to taking over the program, Hayden was an assistant coach with the Blue Streaks, coaching the offensive and defensive lines as well as special teams, he said.
This week, Saratoga begins Class AA play, hosting Ballston Spa (1-1) on Thursday night. The Blue Streaks are coming off a 21-20 loss against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake last week.
In 2022, the Blue Streaks finished 5-5, falling in the Section 2 Class AA Playoffs to CBA.
Hayden said that while the Blue Streaks have a talented group, it is also one without a ton of experience. He said he is excited to watch the team grow throughout the season, noting that, “The sky’s the limit for the group here.”
“Very coachable kids that work very hard, and every day you see them growing,” said Hayden. “Every day, you see a new lightbulb that just went on. …They can be a dangerous group, because you just don’t know what to expect.”
Hayden said the team has a strong group of returning players, naming defensive end/tight end/wide receiver Christian Mello, running back/receiver Rodell Evans III, quarterback Jack Rigabar, receiver/safety Caleb Casey, and center Jayden Cox among others.
Hayden also said the team’s defensive backfield is strong this year, and said the Blue Streaks’ wide receiver group does “a phenomenal job too.
“I really like what our defensive backfield has to offer,” said Hayden. “The style of defense that we play, those guys all have to be able to cover and tackle. This group that we have is pretty good at it, and pretty special at it.”
Throughout summer practices leading up to the team’s season opener, Hayden said some of his main points of emphasis were conditioning and limiting penalties.
“The big message we sent in camp is we have to practice harder than the games,” said Hayden. “I told them, ‘If you’re in better shape and you can limit the penalties, you’re in good shape.’”
The Blue Streaks open league play tonight with a Route 50 rivalry game and a goal of returning to the postseason, with Hayden saying, “This team is hungry.”
“They’ve seen what they can do. We really started building the momentum last year,” Hayden said. “They have that very much in their eyes right now. It’s cool that we have a good amount of guys coming back that have been there, because now they know what it takes. Hopefully they can teach our young guys that as well.”