League lead on the line
Last season, the Steamboat Springs and Moffat County football teams played for third-place in the league. The Bulldogs won in overtime, shutting the Sailors out of the playoffs.
The teams meet again tonight and, for the first time in Steamboat coach Mark Drake’s 30-plus years, he said, both teams are in contention to win the league title.
Through five Western Slope games, Steamboat is averaging 37 points a contest. Through four Western Slope games, Moffat County’s defense is surrendering an average of eight points.
One has to give tonight.
“Their coaching staff has done a great job of recognizing their strengths and changing their offensive scheme,” Bulldogs coach Kip Hafey said. “There hasn’t been a team that can throw the ball like they can in the six years I’ve been here.”
While the Bulldogs have played some zone this season, their defense thrives in man coverage, rushing six or seven players up front in an effort to sack the quarterback or force him into bad decisions. Moffat County has 20 interceptions this season, including two late ones against Rifle that essentially won the game.
The Sailors have enjoyed success facing both zone and man, averaging nearly 225 passing yards a game. Drake said every team Steamboat’s faced thus far has made adjustments against his team, straying from their normal defensive schemes when facing the Sailors’ atypical passing offense.
“We have to take what they give us and be patient on offense,” Drake said.
Senior David May wasn’t the starting quarterback in last year’s 14-13 overtime loss, but he’s looking forward to leading the way tonight in a game pitting the league’s best offense against the league’s top defense.
“I’ve been thinking about playing Moffat County since last year after we lost to them,” May said.
In a game such as tonight’s, with the league title potentially on the line, it may be of some concern that a player will surrender a big play in an effort to make that big play. Neither coach is changing his team’s approach because of the game’s implications.
Hafey said his defense will be as aggressive as it has been all season. Drake said his team needs to play with the poise and focus on both sides of the ball that brought the Sailors to this point.
Whether Aaron Sanchez or Derek Duran start at quarterback for Moffat County is a game-time decision, though Steamboat has prepared for both. The Bulldogs’ offense relies on its speed, strength and execution, and it will be essential for the Sailors to contain Moffat County’s running game.
“They are doing some things differently offensively this year,” Drake said. “They have so much talent, and they have tremendous athletes.”
If Moffat County wins its final two games against Steamboat and Palisade, the Bulldogs win the league outright. If Steamboat wins tonight, and Moffat County defeats Palisade next Friday, the Sailors win the league.
“What a great match-up,” Hafey said. “Last year determined who was going to make the playoffs. This year it is who could win the league. That makes for some exciting football.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Way, in Craig.
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Time seemed to stop for Matthew Engle for a few seconds after he heard crunching metal last week while he was in downtown Steamboat Springs.