Sailors save best for last |

Sailors save best for last

John F. Russell
Canon Reece finds some running room during Friday night's game at Gardner Field.
John F. Russell

Members of the Steamboat Springs High School football team saved their best game for last and managed to escape the grips of a winless season.

On Friday, the Sailors rolled to a 20-2 victory against Coal Ridge in the team’s final game of the 2016 season, which was played in front of the hometown fans at Gardner Field.

Junior Canon Reece rushed for three, second-half touchdowns as the Sailors scored 20 unanswered points in the win. Despite trailing 2-0 at the half, Coal Ridge scored after the home team misplayed a punt in the second quarter, and the ball rolled to the one-yard line, where it was downed by the visiting team.

Coal Ridge took advantage of the situation two plays later, trapping Steamboat in their own end zone for the safety.

The score remained 2-0 until late in the third quarter, when Reece finally put the Sailors on the board with a six-yard touchdown run. He added two more, including a 30-yard scamper for his final touchdown, with only two minutes remaining in the game.

The team also got strong defensive play from Colton Pasternak, who managed to sack the Coal Ridge quarterback, Oscar Salazar, twice in the final quarter,

It was the Sailors’ only win of the season, and the emotion and weight of the team’s 1-8 season seemed to be lifted following the game.

“It was a wonderful win, and we are just so proud of everybody on the team, especially our seniors … I said a couple of weeks ago that we felt like we were getting on a roll, and now, we wish we could start the season over,” Sailors’ coach Lonn Clementson said “I can’t tell you how much we are going to miss these guys, especially our seniors, on Monday. Our kids really wanted this, and they deserve all the credit.”

On paper, Friday night’s game between the Steamboat Springs Sailors (1-8) and Coal Ridge Titians (1-8) doesn’t seem all that important.

There were no playoff spots at stake, not even a chance to upset a top team and impact the final league standings. While Basalt, Moffat County and Roaring Fork played in games that helped determine the league title Friday, Steamboat’s tilt with Coal Ridge only mattered to the players on the field and the fans who have supported their teams.

But for the eight members of the Sailors squad, the game was one of the biggest of their high school careers. It represented one final chance to play at Gardner Filed and one final chance to walk off the field as winners.

“What I really wanted before the game was for our guys to play, have fun and enjoy the game,” Clementson said, “There is no question our guys wanted to win and no question that they were playing to win for our seniors.”

Of the eight seniors who played their final game Friday Mo Munoz, Colten Crawford, Matthew Hansen, Jake Huselton and Charlie Harrington have spent four years with the team. They were joined by first-year players Dom Blount and Alejandro Sandoval. Senior

Colton Pasternak was with the team his freshman year, but took his sophomore and junior years off to focus on wrestling. This year, he returned to the team and, along with the other seniors, was honored during Friday’s senior night.

Clementson said that, despite the Sailors’ struggles on the field this season, he was convinced that this season was a positive experience for the leaders and the seniors who never stopped believing that they could win.

“Senior night is a chance to celebrate the whole season,” Clemenston said. ”It’s a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the seniors and for them to reflect on what we hope has been a great experience for them.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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