Steamboat football gears up for homecoming |

Steamboat football gears up for homecoming

Luke Graham

— Steamboat Springs High School football coach Aaron Finch knows the challenges of football.

He’s led a group of inexperienced Sailors to a shot at the state playoffs. He’s turned first-time starting quarterback Austin Hinder into one of the biggest threats in the Western Slope League.

But this week, Finch faces a challenge of a different sort.

Steamboat (4-2 overall, 3-1 in league play) is gearing up for a 7 p.m. contest today at Gardner Field against Montezuma-Cortez, a team with just one win on the season. Although the matchup appears favorable for Steamboat’s homecoming, Finch knows his players have to deal with the distractions that homecoming week brings and focus on tonight’s task without looking ahead.

Next week, the Sailors face Glenwood Springs, the top team in Class 3A. A win in that game would essentially vault Steamboat into the playoffs and give the Sailors a chance at a league crown.

But tonight’s game comes first.

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“It’s always a challenge mid-season to keep everybody focused,” Finch said. “We tend to try and break the rhythm of practice and change stuff up. We try to keep it as interesting as possible.”

Finch knows that if the Sailors don’t approach tonight’s game with focus and intensity, a winnable contest could get interesting.

Despite a winless league record, the Panthers (1-6, 0-5) bring an offense that’s put up significant points every time it has taken the field.

“They’re big, big, big up front,” Finch said. “Their quarterback does a really nice job. They’re a spread option team but you’ll see some I-formation.”

Although the Panthers’ offense has put up points, the defense has given up 35 points per game, and 41 per game to league opponents.

While those numbers certainly favor the high-powered, quick-strike Steamboat offense, Finch said Montezuma-Cortez should be better this week on defense since the ‘Pistol Formation’ the Sailors run is similar to the spread option attack the Panthers defense sees every day in practice.

“I think one of the scary things is they’re running against an offense they’re comfortable seeing,” Finch said. “They are certainly going to be ready to play us.”

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Last year’s game

Steamboat 31, Montezuma-Cortez 6

Jay Hanley rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns, Tanner Stillwell threw for 177 yards and one touchdown, and Ben DeLine kicked a 25-yard field goal in the Steamboat win. The Sailors jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead while piling on 272 yards on the ground.

Homecoming events

– The Steamboat Springs High School Homecoming Parade is at 2 p.m. in downtown Steamboat Springs.

– A Hometown Gathering to cheer on the Sailors for homecoming is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Steamboat Springs High School. All are welcome. The gathering includes live music, face painting, the Sailor Pep Band, high school cheerleaders and fire trucks. Join in for fun and hometown Sailor spirit.

– The Steamboat Springs High School cheerleaders are sponsoring a food drive for LIFT-UP of Routt County during the football game at Gardner Field. Take donations of canned goods or nonperishable food items to the game. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.