Sailors shoot for first title game since ’79
The thought of the Steamboat Springs football team playing 48 minutes of complete football brings a smile to senior Lonny Radford’s face.
Imagine, he said, that the defense plays with the same abandon and discipline against Florence as it did in shutting out D’Evelyn. What if, he added, the offense is as unstoppable in the 1 p.m. semifinal game today as it was when it put up 52 points against Cortez.
“I can’t wait to see what happens when we’re doing both,” Radford said.
If the Sailors put together their most complete game of the year today against the Huskies, they have a shot to upend the defending state champions in Florence. If Steamboat wins today, the Sailors will be in the state championship game for the first time since winning it all in 1979.
Those, of course, are a lot of “ifs.”
For the third straight week, the Sailors have to — in coach Mark Drake’s words — “dig deep” if they want to advance to the Nov. 29 finals. In Florence, Steamboat will face not the most balanced offensive attack it has seen, but an option attack that, when executed correctly, is nearly unstoppable.
“Going into the D’Evelyn game, our focus was on the run and forcing them to pass,” junior cornerback Tyler Fosdick said. “It will probably be the same this week. They haven’t had to throw the ball.”
The key to stopping the triple-threat option is defensive pressure in the pocket, forcing the backs and the quarterback to run parallel to the line of scrimmage instead of down the field.
If Steamboat’s defensive line and linebackers can string Huskies quarterback Jeremy Young, fullback Ty Buderus and halfback Matt Ortiz toward the sidelines, the Sailors figure they’ve got a shot. Forcing Florence into third-and-eight or even third-and-seven would ease things for Steamboat’s defense.
On the flip side, if the Sailors’ offense can manufacture long scoring drives, mixing up the run and pass to chew time off the clock, the Huskies offense won’t have the chance to get on the field.
Florence defeated Moffat County, 33-13, last weekend in Craig to advance to today’s semifinals. Hafey said the Huskies are poised and patient on offense and that the team waits for its opponent to make one mistake.
“They are a big play team,” Hafey said of Florence. “With the option, you can’t overlook anybody. If one player lets down, there’s their big play and that’s what they wait for.”
Hafey said that if Steamboat is able to contain Buderus and force Young, just a sophomore, into mistakes, the Sailors could leave the Huskies’ field victorious, mainly because Steamboat can do what Moffat County had difficulty doing — score.
“Steamboat has a different type of offense than we have,” Hafey said. “We threw the ball 16 times and were only able to complete eight passes. We had receivers open and just couldn’t get the players the ball.”
Figure the Sailors to throw more than 16 times, and if Steamboat’s receivers are open, figure quarterback David May to find them.
“Steamboat likes to throw the football to set up the run, and they do a good job,” Florence coach Mark Buderus said. “They’ve got that great QB and five really good receivers, and I think that’s where their emphasis is. But they have the ability to run the football. They aren’t totally one-dimensional. They are a very solid team.”
What Buderus and his Florence players haven’t watched is the entire Steamboat offense in operation. During the first two playoff wins against Sterling and D’Evelyn, the Sailors found ways to run the ball and score without starting running back Brad Bonner.
Bonner is back, and Drake expects him to play well in whatever the coaching staff asks him to do, be it running or blocking.
The coaching staff is expecting the entire Steamboat team to play well. The Sailors were fortunate enough to host two playoff games. Now, they must go on the road and earn the trip to the championship game.
“It’s everyone’s goal to be a state champion,” Steamboat senior Taylor Leary said. “I think you sell yourself short if you don’t want that, but sometimes you don’t always believe that. I think we’re super happy to be where we’re at in the semifinals, but I don’t think we’re satisfied with just this.”
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