Playoff fight begins |

Playoff fight begins

Sailors face Delta in homecoming game tonight

— Tonight’s homecoming game between Steamboat Springs and Delta could go a long way toward clearing the picture in the Western Slope League.

Or it could make it a lot muddier.

The Sailors – currently fourth in the League and holding onto the last playoff spot – sit at 2-1 in league play and could solidify their position as a playoff team with a win. Delta comes in at 2-2 and fifth in the league, but could scramble things up and make the playoff fight interesting during the last four weeks of the season.

“I’ve said it all year long, but it’s proving more true that there are no easy games in our league this year,” Sailor coach Aaron Finch said. “I think the top teams are just as strong as in years past : but it’s hard to tell how good teams are because it seems that anybody can play with anyone this year.”

After winning 17-16 last week against Eagle Valley, Delta has matched its total number of league wins from the previous two years. After changing offensive and defensive schemes, Delta coach Bruce Keith has the Panthers playing a game with playoff implications for the first time in years.

“Once you get into October, if you’re lucky to win a couple, then boy they’re all important,” Keith said. “I think the thing that I like the best about our football team is we’ve been able to keep our composure and play hard until the end.”

With the off the field distractions of homecoming, Finch said his team must stay focused and be ready to play today.

“You’re just always concerned if you’re going to be able to play the game at that high level,” he said. “I think we proved against Eagle Valley, if we don’t play with intensity we’re a very average football team.”

Steamboat’s sole loss came against Eagle Valley on Sept. 15.

Delta has changed from a traditional I-formation team to the spread option. Defensively they play a 3-4 base defense that Finch said has improved immensely from last year.

“They’re a good football team,” Finch said. “What’s scary about them, with it being a new offensive and defensive scheme, is they are only going to get better each week.”

Delta will throw the ball a lot.

“In the past five weeks of football none of those teams were really effective at throwing the football,” Finch said. “We’re going to be tested in a way that all of our defensive backs are new starters.”

The Sailors have been searching for an offensive identity the last couple of weeks. Last week against Moffat County they had 195 yards on the ground, including 132 from Jay Hanley who missed the previous two games with a leg injury, and scored their first rushing touchdown since the first game of the year. In the air, Steamboat struggled, completing only 4-of-16 passes.

Still, Finch said the Sailors’ offense is on the cusp of breaking through. Hopefully, he said, it will begin today against Delta.

“There’s nothing like having a kid like Jay Hanley carrying the ball for you,” Finch said. “That was a nice thing, but then we didn’t throw the ball as well. One of these days we’ll get it all together and we’ll be scary.”

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