Steamboat football faces toughest test of the year |

Steamboat football faces toughest test of the year

Sailors head to Palisade today to take on 1-loss Bulldogs

If you go

What: Steamboat (0-7) at Palisade (6-1)

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction

Cost: $5 for adults, $4 for children and seniors

Steamboat Springs — It’s tough to find something new to say about the Palisade High School football team. — It’s tough to find something new to say about the Palisade High School football team.

— It’s tough to find something new to say about the Palisade High School football team.

The Bulldogs have been the preeminent team on the Western Slope for two decades. Their season always starts and stops with talks of a state title.

So as a winless and injury-plagued Steamboat Springs team prepares for a 7 p.m. game at Palisade today, it’s safe to say this will be the toughest game of the year.

“They’re so well coached and have tough kids. It’s always a challenge,” said Steamboat coach Lonn Clementson, who will be without six or seven seniors because of injury. “But if you’re going to be the best, you have to compete with the best. There’s nothing to lose for us. It’s all positives for us.”

Palisade enters the game amidst another season where it looks like it could end up in the Class 3A state title game. The Bulldogs are fourth in Wild Card points through Monday. With the new playoff format in Class 3A, only league and conference winners are guaranteed a playoff spot. The other nine spots are done on wild card standings.

The Bulldogs (6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Western Slope League) are led by sophomore quarterback Luke McLean, who has 521 yards of rushing and 652 yards of passing. The running back trio of Ronald Kuntz, Quinn Zamora and Caden Woods also has chipped in 1,039 yards on the ground.

Since giving up 13 fourth-quarter points to Glenwood Springs in a 21-20 loss Sept. 23, Palisade has been as tough as a team comes in Class 3A.

The Bulldogs have outscored their past three opponents, 123-18.

To have any chance today, Steamboat (0-7, 0-4) will have to find a way to breathe life into a stagnant offense. With Palisade’s ball control and punch-in-the-mouth style, Steamboat’s best opportunity will come with long sustained drives, something the team hasn’t been to maintain.

The Sailors, after averaging 37.5 points a game last year, have averaged just 7.5 points a game this year.

The most points Steamboat has scored was 14 last week against Glenwood Springs, marking only the second time this season the team has scored in double digits.

“We want to try and control the game,” Clementson said. “We talked a lot to our kids this week that every first down is like a touchdown for us. We want to keep it away from their offense as much as we can. Then get those 10-yard victories. That’s what we want.”

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