Sailors grind out win
Special teams, defense lift Steamboat past Delta
Steamboat Springs — Maybe nothing said more about the character and fortitude of the Steamboat Springs football team than Friday’s 10-7 win against Delta.
With the Sailors struggling to hold onto the ball, the defense and special teams stepped up. Down, 10-7, late in the third quarter, the Panthers lined up for a 17-yard field goal to tie the game, when Nigel Hammond came off the corner, laid out and blocked the attempt.
“I just thought I had to get in there,” Hammond said. “We needed a play.”
Two possessions later, Delta lined up once again for a game-tying field goal, this time from 32 yards out. This time Shaun Forney broke through the line and thwarted the Panthers’ attempt.
“Big defensive and special teams plays like that are huge,” Sailor coach Aaron Finch said. “Sean Forney’s probably the shortest kid on our defense and he gets that block.”
Early in the game, it looked like the Sailors (5-1, 3-1 in the Western Slope League) might blow out the Panthers. On their second drive of the game, the Sailors used only two plays to get into the end zone, when Jay Hanley took the ball around the left side and scored from nine yards out to take a 7-0 lead. The play was set up by a 34-yard run by quarterback Tanner Stillwell. Two drives later Steamboat put together a seven-play drive, capped off by a 44-yard field goal from Ben Deline.
But for the rest of the game, the Sailors struggled to hang onto the ball.
Steamboat fumbled on its next two possessions including one at its own 11-yard line. Three plays later, Delta’s Kevin Osbourne found Preston Boyd for a 14-yard touchdown strike to put the score at 10-7.
“We showed a lot of heart – Sailor pride,” Stillwell said. “I mean we’re a family. If someone’s not having a good game, we won’t tell them but we’re going to pick them up and they picked it up for me tonight.”
In the second half, the Sailor defense stopped Delta time and again. The Sailors limited the Panthers to 67 yards and forced three three-and-outs, a turnover on downs and the two blocked field goals.
“To be minus five in turnovers and still win the game, that’s big,” Finch said. “I think we need to play with intensity to be a good football team, and I think we had the intensity tonight and it showed in the defense.”
While the win may have not been pretty, it put the Sailors in prime position to lock up a playoff berth, but maybe more importantly, Finch said, the Sailors now know they can win when they don’t play their best game.
“We’re maturing and growing,” Finch said. “I think this will be one that helps us down the road.”
“It’s a ‘W,'” said Hanley, who finished with 153 yards on 32 carries. “I feel like I want to puke because it scared me. Everybody just did their part. I wished I could have done more. Everybody, I’m sure, wishes they could have done more:
“It shows that we can dig deep. When we need to do it, we can do it.”
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Steamboat Springs has produced nearly 100 winter Olympians, more than any other town in North America. That fact is everywhere, plastered on websites and informational boards across town.