Steamboat Springs Middle School football teams wrap up successful 2016 campaigns
Steamboat Springs — Impressive.
That might be the best word to describe the group of Steamboat Springs middle school football players that makes up this year’s eighth-grade class.
“This group really bought into our philosophy of brotherhood,” head coach Matt Gantick said. “Everybody played quite a bit, and everybody contributed.”
Gantick, who has coached the eighth-grade middle school football team for the past 14 years, said this group of players is special, not only because it went 7-0 for the season, but also because this is the second time in two years the team has finished a season unbeaten.
This year, the team won it’s opening contest 28-0 on the road against Summit at the end of August and never looked back, chalking up huge wins against Gypsum Creek on the road in week two (28-12) and topping Meeker 34-14 at home in week three. The team slipped past Rifle 20-16 in week four, beat Moffat County 44-0 in week five and 28-0 in week six and finished the season with a 45-30 win against Meeker in week seven.
Gantick said the team’s success comes from playing to its strengths. This year, that meant running from under center, highlighting the team’s power running game, and solid passing from drop-back quarterback Jake Kressig.
“Jake had a great handle on the offense,” said George Yost, assistant coach and offensive coordinator. “He would suggest plays he thought would work and was able to make hot reads and then make the right call at the line of scrimmage.”
The team’s engine was fueled by a talented backfield that included running back Jameson Tracy, who finished the season with 17 touchdowns. Jameson got great lead blocking from fullback Ryan Hansen, who also added to Steamboat’s running game.
When the team wanted to mix things up, it used back Finn Russell, whose elusive running style was a welcome addition to the backfield. When not running the ball, Russell served as the team’s kicker and finished the season with two field goals. In a game against Meeker, he collected 27 points after scoring three touchdowns, hitting six extra points and scoring a field goal.
The offensive line was anchored by center Aiden Story, who also stepped in on the defensive line due to injuries at the end of the season. He was joined by linemen Ezra Moyer, who played guard on offense and linebacker on defense. The Sailors lost their star lineman late in the season after he broke his arm.
Fortunately, the team had several other standouts, including Dylan Taggart, who helped shore up Steamboat’s lines. Jake Stees played tight end with Jayden Kemry. The team also had a couple of speedy corners, including Austin Ibarra and Carter Reistad.
But Gantick said the team’s success this season really depended on all 23 players on the roster, and he said every player contributed at one point or another during the season.
‘We had incredible leadership in this group from the top to the bottom,” Gantick said. “What these kids did in middle school was monumental.”
Steamboat’s seventh-grade team also wrapped up a solid season last weekend in Meeker. The younger team showed a tremendous amount of growth this season and finished with a 3-3-1 record.
“We did really well this season,” coach Daren Mangiaracina said. ”I’m not sure that our record shows how good we really were.”
He said the team was able to move the ball offensively all season and also made key stops on defense.
“We have a ton of really talented athletes, a really smart quarterback who never got a play wrong this season. It’s just a great group of kids,” he said.
The team picked up wins against Rifle, Moffat County and Gypsum Creek this season. It lost to Moffat County and Summit and tied Meeker.
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