Luke Graham: Game of the year |

Luke Graham: Game of the year

Luke Graham.

Friday’s game between Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs is the reason high school sports are played.

It’s a matchup of the No. 1 Demons and the No. 4 Sailors.

That alone says a lot.

But looking beyond the rankings – which come from Denver newspapers with writers who likely haven’t seen either team play – this game offers so much more.

Start with what it means as far as the playoffs. A win, and Glenwood Springs pretty much assures itself the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A playoffs. That means a home playoff game and what is assumed the easiest road to the state championship game. It also would mean a league championship for the Demons.

For Steamboat, a win could mean the No. 2 seed out of the Western Slope League.

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That’s a big deal, considering the second-seeded team likely will get the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. That means a home playoff game.

The No. 3 seed out of the league will likely have to travel to a top-five team to play in the opening round.

Of course, there are the offenses. Both units probably are among the top five most dangerous in Class 3A. Throw in Palisade, and the Western Slope League might have the top three offenses this side of the Continental Divide.

Steamboat averages 38 points per game, while Glenwood has put up 41 a game.

Both teams can run. Both teams can throw the ball.

Each team has proven in the last couple weeks that it is built for deep playoff runs. After Steamboat lost to Palisade earlier in the year, the team has bounced back to win its last four games by a combined score of 186-63. Any questions that Glenwood purely was a finesse team were answered two weeks ago, when the team traveled to then-No. 1 Palisade and came away with a 29-22 win.

But maybe the best reason to go will be to see two of the best quarterbacks in the state and the top two receivers in the league.

Glenwood’s Connor Riley and Steamboat’s Alex Wood are the best pass catchers in the league by a wide margin. Nobody runs better routes than Riley, and Wood never gets tackled by only one defender.

Then there is Dakota Stonehouse versus Austin Hinder. Both will play at the next level and both are the catalysts to their teams. Stonehouse, a senior, is equally dangerous running and throwing the ball. He’s tormented the league for the last three years and appears to be better than ever.

Hinder is a big-time player who has college coaches and scouts drooling over his potential.

He’s dangerous on the ground and throws one of the most beautiful deep balls in the state.

Both teams certainly are likely to make a deep run in the playoffs. That’s why – especially in high school sports – it doesn’t get much better than 7 p.m. Friday at Gardner Field.

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

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