‘This is the team’: Is this the year the Sailors post a winning record?
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs High School football team hasn’t had a winning season in 10 years, since going 13-1 in 2009. That year, the team fell to Valor Christian in the 3A state championship.
Since then, the team has never earned a record better than 4-6, going 3-7 in the 2018 season.
“This is the team,” senior quarterback Diego Effinger said. “I think this is the year, and I’m really hoping it is.”
Effinger endured a shortened 2018 season. In week three, he tore his ACL on his left knee, resulting in months of rehab.
“He is one of the most coachable kids that I have been around,” head coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “His biggest downfall is he’s actually too hard on himself. A quarterback has got to be able to understand, ‘yeah, I made a mistake, here’s what I’m gonna fix,’ and move on. He gets really down on himself, but that’s because he wants to perform, and you love that in a kid.”
When it comes to performance though, Effinger is very humble.
“These boys are my strength. I couldn’t do anything I can do without them,” he said. “It’s not me, it’s a team.”
The senior quarterback was hoping to get back to work, but ahead of the start of the season, Effinger tore his ACL once more and is out indefinitely.
He will be on the sidelines for now, with either senior Cole Gedeon taking snaps or freshman Cade Gedeon.
Whoever is under center, they will be guarded by one of the largest offensive lines in recent Steamboat Springs history.
Aug. 30: vs. Manual, 7 p.m. Sept. 6: vs. Cedaredge, 7 p.m. Sept 13: vs. Moffat County, 7 p.m. Sept. 20: at Middle Park, 7 p.m. Sept. 27: at Hotchkiss, 7 p.m. Oct. 11: vs. Palisade, 7 p.m. Oct. 18: at Battle Mountain, 7 p.m. Oct. 25: vs. Summit, 7 p.m. Nov. 1: at Eagle Valley, 7 p.m. Nov. 8: vs. Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m.
With five players 200 pounds or heavier, the listed offensive linemen average 190 pounds. Five players stand 6 feet or taller, averaging a height of 5 foot, 10 inches.
“The strength of our team this year is gonna be upfront on our offensive line, which as a running team that is a huge, huge asset,” said Baumgartner.
While the team lost two senior linemen, there are so many juniors returning that Baumgartner thinks they won’t skip a beat, taking over where they left off last year.
Working closely with the line is junior running back Finn Russell, who led the team with 700 yards on the ground last fall.
Another key returner is 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior wide receiver Tanner Raper. On the other side of the ball, Raper is a defensive back, using his length to crowd receivers and bat away passes. Along with Russell, Raper was named to the Western Slope all-conference team.
“He’s a big target — super athletic,” Baumgartner said. “That’s a kid that can block for you on the outside and be able to go up and get the ball and be a playmaker.”
In a scrimmage against Meeker on Saturday, Aug. 24, the Sailors looked solid. On defense, they had little trouble stopping the run, but if a receiver got moving along the sideline, they had trouble bringing him down.
“Our biggest emphasis on defense is being able to fly to the football and put ourselves in a position to make plays. A lot of that really comes down to attitude and effort,” Baumgartner said. “You don’t have to be the fastest kid, you don’t have to be the strongest kid, but if you can be the best player you can be to put yourself in that position, that’s all we can ask for.”
The line and sound defense may be the secrets to success this year, but when it really comes down to turning the team into a winning one, it goes back to building up the middle school program.
“We’re starting to see that payoff here going into our third year as a staff … we’re getting more numbers coming up from the middle school into the high school,” Baumgartner said. “I think if we can continue to see that trend, things are going to just continue to improve from that aspect.”
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