On the ground | SteamboatToday.com

On the ground

With Hanley's return, Steamboat gets its running game going

Steamboat Springs' Sean Forney, right, Westin Cofer and Nigel Hammond block a field goal attempt by Delta's Preston Boyd in the fourth quarter of Friday night's game. The block helped the Sailors secure a 10-7 win over the visiting Panthers.
John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs season statistics

First Downs 60

Rushes-Yards 190-797

Comp-Att-Int 51-110-5

Yards Passing 713

Total Yards 1,510

Punts-Avg. 27-40

Fumbles-lost 14-8

Penalties-Yards 46-430


Steamboat 37-19-24-25-99

Opponent 00-30-10-31-74



S: Jay Hanley 94-494, 4 TD; Sean Forney 20-75; Eric Bonner 20-58; Jace Bonner 11-36; Westin Cofer 5-28; Aaron Hornstein 5-19; Josh Mangold 4-8; Tanner Stillwell 25-85, 2 TD; Alex Wood 1-(-6).


S: Stillwell 50-107-5 693 yards, 6TD; Wood 1-3-0 20 yards.


S: Hanley 8-104, Hornstein 4-27; Westin Cofer 7-130, 4 TD; Nigel Hammond 6-88; Michael Stewart 11-130, 1 TD; Jace Bonner 11-177, 1TD; Jeff Dawes 2-18; Sean Forney 1-11; Houston Mader 1-8.

Western Slope standings

Rifle 4-0, 4-2

Steamboat Springs 3-1, 5-1

Palisade 3-2, 5-2

Battle Mountain 3-2, 4-2

Glenwood Springs 2-2, 3-3

Eagle Valley 2-2, 2-4

Delta 2-3, 2-4

Moffat County 1-3, 2-4

Montezuma Cortez 0-5, 1-6

— In high school football – no matter what the level – running the ball is imperative to have success.

No one knows this better than Steamboat Springs coach Aaron Finch. After watching his team struggle running the ball the first four weeks, Finch can’t help but smile at the effort his team has put together during the past two weeks.

Against Moffat County and Delta, the Sailors rolled up more than 200 yards in each game. They’ve also scored three rushing touchdowns after scoring just three in their first four games.

Finch said the return of running back Jay Hanley, who sat out two weeks with a hamstring injury, and the emergence of quarterback Tanner Stillwell as a running threat has made the difference to the Sailors’ ground attack. Hanley and Stillwell have combined for 75 carries for 404 yards and three touchdowns during the past two games.

“Jay is just a phenomenal athlete,” Finch said. “When we give him nothing he gets two. When we give him three he gets six and when we give him six he could go.”

Finch said the final drive of Friday’s game against Delta shows how much the Sailors’ running game has improved.

Leading 10-7, the Sailors took over on their own 17-yard line with four minutes and 24 seconds to go in the game. Stillwell and Hanley carried the ball nine times for 56 yards and picked up four first downs to run out the clock.

“That drive was huge,” Finch said. “It showed we could get it done when we needed to. I think I’ll show that drive to our offensive line to show how good of a job they did.”

Finch also said he was pleased with the pass defense. Against Delta’s spread option attack, Steamboat limited the Panthers to 65 yards through the air and only seven completions. Kent Denver is the only other team Steamboat has faced that boasts an offense predicated on passing.

Montezuma-Cortez and Glenwood Springs, which shocked Palisade Friday night with a 25-18 win, also like to throw the ball a lot, so Finch said he feels much more confident heading into those games.

“It’s heartening considering we played man defense the whole game and had only one pass interference call,” Finch said. “(Cornerbacks) Houston Mader and Aaron Hornstein did a phenomenal job.”

With only four weeks remaining in the season, the Sailors are in good position to return to the playoffs. But with three games against teams battling for playoff spots, Finch said his team has to keep its intensity.

“We didn’t do everything we wanted against Delta but we’re going to get ready for a long trip to Cortez and get ready for them,” Finch said. “I’m happy to be 5-1 but I know there’s no easy games in this league. Besides a couple of teams, everyone is battling for a playoff spot. It should be fun.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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