Sailors football gets offensive |

Sailors football gets offensive

Luke Graham

— It’s hard to imagine that even with the way things went Friday night against Moffat County – a 40-24 win in which the score didn’t reflect the dominance of Steamboat Springs High School football – the Sailors should get much better in coming weeks.

Consider this:

Steamboat returns sophomore linebacker and tight end Cody Harris after a two-game absence. Harris lacerated his kidney in two spots against Palisade and missed games against Eagle Valley and Moffat County. Before the injury, Harris was the team’s leading receiver and second-leading tackler.

Steamboat also returns sophomore running back and wide receiver Joe Dover. Dover – arguably the most athletic player on the team – was the talk of summer camps from opposing coaches around the league.

Now, add in quarterback Austin Hinder (771 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns), Nigel Hammond (seven total touchdowns), Alex Wood (two receiving touchdowns) and Matt Lettunich (96 yards receiving and a touchdown in Harris’ absence) and the Steamboat offense possesses the weapons to be even more dangerous.

“When you look at the statistics from Friday’s game, we could have done a whole lot more,” Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. “But it’s pretty neat when all the weapons are working.”

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Although the skill position players get the numbers, Finch said a big portion of the offense’s success has been the continued improvement of the offensive line.

Finch said he knew coming into the season with such an inexperienced group – tackles Mac Marsha and Ahmad Akkad are the only players with playing experience from last year – that it would take time for the line to understand Steamboat’s blocking schemes.

But in the past two games, it certainly appears the five up front not only know the schemes, but have perfected them.

Against Eagle Valley and Moffat County, the offensive line paved the way for the Sailors to rush for more than 500 yards on the ground.

“I was nervous,” Finch said. “This group is a little more inexperienced and I knew it was going to take longer. But it really began before the Eagle Valley game. I think they took the steps to make themselves better players and better as a unit.”

While the offense has been impressive the past two games – scoring 74 points – Finch said part of the turnaround should be credited to the defense.

After allowing 200 yards rushing to Laramie, Wyo., and Palisade, Steamboat’s defense has returned to form the past two games.

Steamboat gave up less than 100 yards on the ground to Eagle Valley – a team that had averaged more than 250 yards rushing a game. The Sailors held the Devils to 0-for-10 on third-down conversions and 2-for-5 on fourth-down conversions.

Then against Moffat County, the first-team defense held the Bulldogs to 1.7 yards a play in a little more than a half of work.

“We had linebackers jumping all over the ball carriers,” Finch said. “Our defensive philosophy is ‘Wild Dogs.’ That’s the character of where our defense is fast, little scrappy athletes getting after it.”

While two wins don’t make a season, Finch said with the way the team is playing – and the opportunity to get even better looming – he’s excited to see where the second half of the season takes the Sailors.

“There’s always that opportunity to improve. As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,'” Finch said. “So many things in life are continuous improvement : and it really feels this is a group dedicated to that.”