Steamboat plays Rifle today at 7 p.m. |

Steamboat plays Rifle today at 7 p.m.

Sailors expect to get Rifle's best shot tonight at Gardner Field

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs High School wide receiver Jack Spady pulls in a touchdown pass during the third quarter of the Oct. 2 game against Palisade in Steamboat. The Sailors won that game, 28-21, and face the Rifle Bears in their homecoming competition today.

— The Steamboat Springs High School football team’s biggest win in more than two years is already in the rearview mirror.

The question that now faces the Sailors is: How will they respond in the wake of their 28-21 victory against Palisade last Friday at Gardner Field?

“You have to stay hungry,” Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. “You have to stay humble. We did beat a good team in Palisade, but we haven’t reached our goals yet. How we practiced this week, the focus seems to be there. But you can’t always project how games are going to go by practice.”

Steamboat squares off against Rifle at 7 p.m. today at Gardner Field. The Bears, who have consistently made the playoffs during most of the past decade, have a new coach in Ryan Sulkowski. Sulkowski was a graduate assistant at Clemson University and has brought in former Rifle head coaches Damon Wells and Anthony Alfini as his assistants.

“The main thing we have to try to do against Steamboat is to slow down their offense, try to move the ball versus their underrated and physical defense, eliminate penalties, and simply hold onto the ball,” Sulkowski said. “They are the No. 1 team in the state for a reason, and we will have to do all of the things I mentioned to be competitive. Our kids are fighters though and are always prepared to play every Friday night.”

The No. 1 ranking is something Finch loathes. It certainly puts a target on Steamboat’s (5-0, 4-0) back.

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Finch said one way to not overlook opponents or become complacent is to remind his team that every week they play, they’ll get the other team’s best shot.

“It’s nice (that) pundits around the state that have never seen us play think we’re that good,” Finch said. “We have to stay hungry. It’s not like we’re a big, physical team that can roll over anybody. But we probably do have a bull’s-eye on our back. Coaching against us, I’d say, ‘You have the chance to beat the top team in the state.'”

Steamboat has proven its worth on offense. But maybe most impressive has been the Steamboat defense. Unheralded coming into the season, Steamboat’s defense was a prime reason the team won last week against Palisade.

Finch said that will have to continue today against Rifle.

“I expect we’ll find ourselves in a dog fight,” Finch said. “We need to get out there and play physical in the beginning and then finish the game.”

If you go

What: Steamboat Springs football vs. Rifle

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Gardner Field

Season statistics

First Downs: 76 (Steamboat); 63 (opponent)

Rushes-Yards: 122-629 (Steamboat); 164-561 (opponent)

Comp-Att-Int: 82-130-3 (Steamboat); 49-92-9 (opponent)

Yards Passing: 1,009 (Steamboat); 660 (opponent)

Total Yards: 1,638 (Steamboat); 1,221 (opponent)

Punts-Avg.: 12-35 (Steamboat); 21-36 (opponent)

Fumbles-lost: 10-4 (Steamboat); 9-6 (opponent)

Penalties-Yards: 28-261 (Steamboat); 47-401 (opponent)

– Rushing

Connor Landusky 16-54; Austin Hinder 47-302, 5 TD; Dylan Pivarnik 8-32; Jake Miller 1-(-1); Joe Dover 39-237, 6 TD; Michael Savory 4-11; Evan Hornstein 3-31, 1 TD; Tyler Samlowski 5-18, 1 TD.

– Passing

Hinder 78-118-2, 993 yards, 12 TD; Miller 1-2-1, 8 yards; Savory 3-10-0, 8 yards.

– Receiving

Jack Verploeg 11-102, 1 TD; Jack Spady 28-442, 6 TD; Cody Harris 10-66, 1 TD; Pivarnik 10-135, 3 TD; Bryce Mayo 2-19; Landusky 2-17; Dover 18-208, 1 TD; Sam Robards 1-8; Jackson Coe 1-6.


Opponent : 14-20-06-47-87

Steamboat: 54-64-38-40-196