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Sailors begin title run

Steamboat to enter playoffs in Longmont against 8-2 Niwot

— A year ago at this time, the members of the Niwot Cougars football team were storing away their uniforms after completing a disappointing 2-8 season.

Oh what a difference a year can make.

The Cougars (8-2) and the Steamboat Springs Sailors (9-1) will clash this weekend at Everly Montgomary Field in Longmont during the first round of the state’s 3A playoffs. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The winner of the game will continue along the road to a state title and the loser will head back to the locker room to begin the long process of storing those uniforms for another year.

“They have a quality team this year and it will be a real challenge for our players,” Steamboat head coach Mark Drake said of Niwot.

Niwot has in fact found new life this season. The squad is led by a core group of veterans including ten seniors.

First year coach Ron Tesone, who replaced coaching legend Paul Koehler, thought his team could make the playoffs at the start of the year and has his players believing they can go all the way.

“It’s been a real reversal of fortunes,” Tesone said of the season. “Making it to the playoffs has been a goal of our team since day one and we are just excited to be here.”

Tesone, much like Drake, will enter Saturday’s playoff game with limited knowledge of the other squad. Tesone, however, said he is aware of the Sailors’ tradition of winning and said he knows that coach Drake will have Steamboat ready to go when the ball is kicked off.

The challenge will be stopping the Cougar’s Paul Creighton both offensively and defensively in the game.

Creighton has 15 receptions for 473 yards this season as a tight end. He has also stacked up impressive numbers with 30 tackles and 12 sacks on the defensive side of the ball.

But Creighton isn’t the only target for Cougars quarterback Ryan Diggins. The junior has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just over 1,000 yards in the air.

The quarterback usually defers the running game to fellow junior Aaron Gonzales, the Cougars 5-foot-7, 175-pound running back, who has collected 860 yards on 145 carries this season.

As a team, the Cougars have rushed for 1,233 yards this season and thrown for another 1,148. The team has outscored its opponents 272-109 and suffered just two losses. One of those losses came against top-ranked Fort Morgan (10-0) and the other came against a larger 4A school Skyline.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” Drake said. “But they are all huge challenges at this point of the season. There are no bad teams at this level.”

The Sailors coach said his team will have to avoid making the costly mistakes and cannot afford to turn the ball over.

Drake said he expects most of his players to be available for the contest with the exception of Pat McMahon who is still listed as very questionable because of a groin pull.

“Coach Drake has coached a lot of great players and he always does a great job,” Tesone said. “We are expecting a great game and our players are excited that Steamboat will be in town for this game.”


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