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Steamboat stays positive in defeat

Melinda Mawdsley

The Steamboat Springs football team has approached this September with a playoff mentality. Three of the four teams it will face made the playoffs last season, including Palisade, which went on to win the Class 3A state championship.

The Sailors are 0-2, but they progressed from Week 1 to Week 2. Senior Brad Bonner topped the magic 100-yard rushing mark Friday night. Last week against Arvada, Charlie Pappas had 115 receiving yards.

Palisade had been running circles around everyone it faced. Friday night, the Bulldogs amassed 328 yards on the ground, and the Sailors did a formidable job of preventing big plays by throwing different looks and their bodies at Palisade backs, Bulldogs coach Todd Casebier said.

Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said the Sailors need to continue to dig deep for the rest of the season, particularly in the next two weeks against Rifle and Moffat County, two teams Steamboat not only beat last year, but in the opinion of many, embarrassed.

“We’ve been able to play at a strong emotional level, but it’s asking a lot of 17- or 18-year-olds to bring that level when you aren’t seeing the rewards,” Finch said.

The rewards, of course, would be wins. Steamboat players think they should 2-0, but turnovers and penalties that allowed opponents to sustain drives have played a pivotal role in the Sailors’ two defeats.

Even if Steamboat ends September without a win, it is by no means out of the playoff picture. The top four teams from the Class 3A Western Slope League advance to the postseason, but the Sailors would feel a lot better about their chances if they managed to “upset” Rifle or Moffat County.

Steamboat faces Rifle at 7 p.m. Friday in Rifle and hosts Moffat County on Sept. 24.

Listening to Finch and some of the Steamboat players talk, it appears as if they are embracing the underdog role this September. Palisade has a late-season stretch when it faces Rifle and Moffat County in back-to-back weeks, but even Casebier acknowledged that Steamboat’s schedule is daunting.

“You play the schedule they give you,” he said. “If Steamboat can get through that with a couple wins, that certainly says something about their team. If you go back-to-back-to-back and get dinged, that gets difficult. … It’s one of those things; you have to stay healthy. I can’t stress that enough.”

For the most part, Steamboat appeared to get off the field against Palisade with no serious injuries. Tyler Fosdick and Daniel Coloccia, two players injured last week against Arvada, started against the Bulldogs and played for the duration of the game. In smaller schools, for players who go both ways and play on special teams, as well, staying injury-free is crucial.

Through two weeks, however, there has been a string of positives that the Sailors can build on. The most obvious one is their aggressive defense.

The Sailors have forced six turnovers in two games, including two key fumbles late in Friday’s game against Palisade. Both fumbles led to Steamboat touchdowns.

“We did a lot of blitzing,” senior linebacker Clay McKenzie said. “We knew they were going to run.”

The good news is that Palisade is arguably the best running team Steamboat will face in the regular season. The bad news is that Rifle and Moffat County have formidable running games, made more effective because each possesses the ability to pass.

But Steamboat has shown the ability to do both, as well.

“We’ll be there,” McKenzie said. “We’ll be there. We’ll surprise people.”

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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