Tale of two teams
Steamboat, Laramie two contrasting styles
Steamboat Springs — When the Steamboat Springs football team takes the field tonight in Laramie, Wyo., an interesting encounter should take place between two different styles.
Laramie runs the spread offense. Steamboat likes to grind it out on the ground. Laramie relies on its massive defensive line. Steamboat uses its athleticism to fly to the ball.
Something’s got to give.
“Their interior guys are huge. Just absolutely huge,” Sailor head coach Aaron Finch said. “They’re big, and their skill guys are incredibly quick.”
Across the front, Laramie’s offensive and defensive lines average 260 pounds. Steamboat’s front eight on defense are athletic and quick, but its biggest player on the line is 240 pounds, and its biggest linebacker is 205 pounds.
“We were really impressed with Steamboat on film,” Laramie head coach Neil Waring said. “It looks like a really good matchup. Two real contrasting styles.”
Laramie’s size and athleticism could present some problems for the Sailors. Finch said that after watching them on film, several things stick out. Offensively, Finch said Laramie gets to the outside quickly. Defensively, their massive lineman could make it tough to get the running game going – something Steamboat needs to succeed.
“Defensively, just their size up front worries me a little bit,” Finch said. “Are we going to get enough yards to sustain drives and score points?”
This week in practice, Finch said a lot of work has been put into shoring up the offensive line. Last week, the team had only 99 yards passing – something Finch wants to improve on – and a blown blocking assignment on a screen pass led to an interception return for a touchdown. With three new starters on the line, Finch knew his line might struggle early.
“Part of what the challenge is, we need all 11 players playing perfectly to have a successful offensive play,” he said. “That’s not always the case on defense, where a player can make an athletic play and get the job done.”
Laramie is a 5A team in Wyoming but would be a small 4A team in Colorado. It returns seven starters on both sides of the ball, and last year, it finished 4-4 and advanced to the first round of the playoffs. It lost to eventual state champion Cheyenne Central, 26-20.
“We think we’re going to be really good,” Waring said. “We think we’re right where we want to be.”
Laramie lost its starting quarterback from last year, as well as the leading punt and kick returner in the state. Still, Waring said the strength of his team lies up front on both lines.
Laramie returns four starters on the offensive and defensive lines and runs a spread offense that Waring called “very balanced.”
It will be a different look for the Sailors, who rarely see the type of offense Laramie runs.
“It’ll be interesting because their offense is a little bit different than we’ve seen,” Finch said. “You’ve got to go in with the idea they have great athletes and that they’re a good team.”
Defensively, Finch said he doesn’t plan to change much. Last week, the first team defense only allowed 57 total yards, including minus-12 on the ground. Still, Finch knows that Laramie poses a significant threat.
“We’ve got our hands full,” he said. “Not knowing a whole lot about them before scheduling them and then looking at them on film, this should be a good preseason test.”
With league foe Palisade on the horizon, Finch said his team is “absolutely not looking past Laramie” but that he understands that in the early parts of the season, it’s all about finding his team’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Am I confident that are kids will play hard and well? Yeah, I am,” he said. “At this point, it’s all about how much we can improve as a football team.”
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Steamboat Springs resident Tony Distrola learned early the secret to life.