Steamboat gears up to face No. 1 Glenwood |

Steamboat gears up to face No. 1 Glenwood

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs quarterback Austin Hinder rolls out and looks downfield during a game against Laramie, Wyo., earlier this year. Hinder will have to play well tonight when Steamboat Springs travels to No. 1 Glenwood Springs for a Western Slope League showdown.

— Two offenses, nearly 4,500 yards of total offense, more than 320 points scored and the two best quarterbacks in the league.

It’s easy to assume today’s 7 p.m. game between Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs has all the makings of an offensive shootout where the scorekeeper may have to join a union just to get adequate pay.

There are the quarterbacks.

Glenwood’s Dakota Stone house has thrown for more than 1,400 yards, rushed for another 259 and accounted for 31 touchdowns.

Steamboat’s Austin Hinder has thrown for 802 yards, rushed for 372 more and has 17 total touchdowns.

There are the wide receivers.

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Glenwood (7-0 overall, 5-0 in league play) has six different players who have caught touchdown passes. Steamboat has five players who’ve reached pay dirt.

There’s the balance.

Glenwood has thrown for 1,400 yards and rushed for another 1,000. Steamboat’s rushed for 1,100 and thrown for another 800.

But what’s overlooked – and what both Glenwood Springs coach Rocky Whitworth and Steamboat coach Aaron Finch know this game comes down to – are the defenses. And Steamboat and Glenwood have two of the best defensive units in the league.

Glenwood has given up 14 or less points in six of its seven games. Steamboat has allowed only one touchdown from its first-team unit in the past three weeks.

“We really hang our hats on the defense,” Whitworth said. “What we try to do on defense always has an emphasis in the program. When the defense does its job, all things seem to fall in line.”

Part of the Demons’ success on defense can be attributed to a good portion of the players playing one way – meaning they don’t also play on offense.

Whitworth said two years ago, he made the commitment to playing a lot of players. After two years of playoff-less seasons, the move has turned Glenwood into the top team in Class 3A.

“Playing more guys increases camaraderie and spirit,” Whitworth said, noting the Glenwood defense is similar to Steamboat’s in that it’s undersized but aggressive. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s getting those guys to play hard. I always think the more kids playing helps you develop more depth.”

For Steamboat (5-2, 4-1), the task of stopping the Glenwood offense is one no team has accomplished this season.

Glenwood averages 40 points a game, with its closest contest being a 34-21 win against Palisade.

“They play at such a mature level. Stonehouse is a student of game, and they really play under a lot of control,” Finch said. “But it’s not just the Dakota Stonehouse show. They catch the ball, the running back’s really quick and the offensive line is not big, but they really play very, very well.”

The game has significant meaning to both programs. A Steamboat win puts the team in a three-way tie atop the Western Slope League and almost certainly places them in the playoffs.

A Glenwood win essentially wraps up a league title and a No. 1 seed heading into the state playoffs.

“I like to think if we do things we do, take care of the football, pursue the football, make sure 10-yard catches don’t turn into 80-yard touchdowns, then we’ll be right in it,” Finch said. “Our main focus is to go out and excel. Our guys are excited to play.”

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