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Different approach, same goal

Sailors, Panthers just want to win

Melinda Mawdsley

— Consider Delta coach Derek Carlson and Steamboat coach Mark Drake opposites with regard to non-league scheduling.

Drake is a firm believer that confidence is essential before the league opens. That confidence is gained by wins the bigger the better.

Carlson, meanwhile, wants the opponent to be tough and talented because the Western Slope is. If his guys aren’t challenged before the crucial league games, they won’t know how to respond.

“We try to schedule the best we can get,” Carlson said. “We get some good competition early, and that lets us know where we are at.”

Delta lost to Montrose, Monte Vista and Pagosa Springs before beating up on Battle Mountain in the non-league portion of its schedule. Montrose is struggling but is a 4A school, while Monte Vista and Pagosa Springs have a combined record of 9-2. Both are fighting for the top spot in the Class 2A Intermountain league.

Steamboat beat Sierra and Berthoud with a loss to Class 2A Eagle Valley sandwiched in the middle. Eagle Valley is 6-0 overall and undefeated in league play. Sierra and Berthoud aren’t having much success.

In retrospect, Drake said he likes Eagle Valley on the schedule and wouldn’t mind playing the Devils again. Sierra wasn’t quick, but the team was bruising. Drake isn’t hot on the idea of driving to Colorado Springs to play Sierra next season.

Actually, Drake isn’t a big fan of traveling long distances at all to play, particularly non-league games. Carlson, on the other hand, accepts that Delta will travel to get good competition.

He said the Panthers see little value in facing closer Grand Junction schools.

“Whether we should beat them or not, I want a great ballgame,” Carlson said. “I hate losing football games, don’t get me wrong, but I want good football.”

At this point in the season, Steamboat is 4-2. Delta is 1-5. Both teams have four games remaining.

On Friday, Steamboat beat Delta 19-18 in a come-from-behind win.

Prior to the Oct. 4 contest, Drake said he felt the Sailors’ non-league schedule “definitely” prepared them for the Western Slope. Carlson felt the same way about his. While the Panthers have played hard, they’ve struggled to win.

Steamboat on the other hard, has become the poster child for close calls, having four games two non-league, two league decided by eight points or less.

Learning to win in the early part of the season has Steamboat confident it can do so no matter the deficit. On the flip side, Delta’s inability to main-

tain leads most recently on Friday night can arguably be attributed to its not learning how to win early.

But as Carlson says, “In our league, anyone can win on any given night.”

At this point, Drake and Carlson just differ on the path needed to make that happen.


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