Steamboat Springs High School football builds on fundamentals and teamwork
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The first year under a new head coach is all about laying down a foundation. Now, it’s about building above ground.
Steamboat Springs High School head football coach Shawn Baumgartner lines up his team in five lines, having each take turns at tackling an inflatable dummy. He’s breaking down the technique to its simplest form — tweaking each player’s head and feet as they approach and lift the dummy off the ground.
“It’s not all new to them this year; it was all new to them last year,” Baumgartner said. “So, we’re able to move faster this year. They’re picking up on things.”
Implementing those fine-tuned details is something that can only be done after the basics are established. Baumgartner even brings in Lomani Tongotongo, a professional rugby player from New Zealand living and coaching in Steamboat, to teach safe tackling techniques.
Aug. 24: at Manual, W 24-12
Aug. 31: at Cedaredge, L 34-26
Sept. 7: at Moffat County, L 21-14
Sept. 14: vs. Middle Park, L 27-20
Sept. 21: vs. Hotchkiss, W 40-7
Oct. 4: at Palisade, L 49-20
Oct. 12: vs. Battle Mountain, L 35-33
Oct. 19: at Summit, L 35-21
Oct. 26: vs. Eagle Valley, W 54-53
Nov. 2: at Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m.
Baumgartner cites the 2015 Super Bowl, where the Seahawks demolished the Broncos 43-8, as an example of the success that correct tackling can bring. It was the year Seattle brought in rugby players to teach their players how to tackle.
Players took turns tackling each other, focusing on the face-cheek-to-butt-cheek technique as they brought each other to the ground in slow motion. The key is to lead with the shoulder, not the head, to prevent head injuries.
Steamboat seniors Tyden Baker and Ford Louden square up at the front of the long line of players. Baker is used as an example to demonstrate the technique.
“Tyden Baker is one of our senior leaders. He’s our center on the O-line,” Baumgartner said. “He’s really stepped into a leader for us upfront. He started there last year, so he’s feeling comfortable in that position. We’re really relying on him in those line calls and getting people to where they need to be.”
Baker humbly states that anyone can be a leader on a team that boasts just over 40 players. He’s admired the growth in participation this year, like his friend, senior Gabe Johnson, who decided to play football for the first time since middle school, or Monroe Parks, who decided he wanted to play rather than film.
“We want to keep everyone tightly bonded and especially keep their heads up,” Baker said. “Since we’re not a big team, you hit each other a lot. You don’t want to just destroy the underclassmen or new guys, because it destroys morality.”
Louden echoes that team sentiment. He’s a little bit more on the competitive side, forfeiting his position as a running back to utilize his strength on the offensive line.
“It’s going pretty smoothly. I already knew the lineman were going for my position at running back,” Louden said. “I’m just focused solely on blocking. It’s a lot more fun, I think, because you get to hit somebody every single play. But in the end, I do it because I wanted to help the team any way I could.”
Despite a one-win season last year, Baumgartner said he witnessed the team progress through every quarter of each game. But his goal is to show the community the bond of his team, hopefully capturing the kids’ interest in years to come.
“Our biggest goal is to continue to build our numbers — that’s a step in the right direction,” Baumgartner said. “One of our biggest emphases this year is working more as a team.”
Baker knows that it’s his role to set an example for the up-and-coming athletes of the community. He wants to show how fun football is.
“Everyone keeps talking about wins and losses, but I think one of our biggest goals would be just playing every play as hard as we can,” Baker said. “Hopefully, we’re able to lead the team a little better and play with fire and aggression every game, and we’re hoping to make the game interesting for people to watch.”
Louden has a more clear-cut goal. He turns his eyes to the new Gardner Field in the background. The team has been practicing on the fields just below the renovated stadium.
“One thing for sure is I want to win that first game on that new field right here,” Louden said.
The Sailors first home game is scheduled for the first week of September against the Moffat County Bulldogs.
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Hans Geier speaks with a soft voice. His face blushes when asked about his life accomplishments. When asked what his role at Steamboat Resort once was, he quietly utters, “President.”