Steamboat Springs High School football takes 40-7 win over Hotchkiss on new Gardner Field |

Steamboat Springs High School football takes 40-7 win over Hotchkiss on new Gardner Field

Joel Reichenberger For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Players stormed onto a nearly untouched turf field on Friday night. Fans rattled freshly assembled aluminum stands and the public-address announcer boomed over a new sound system and from a sparkling, pristine press box. The Steamboat Springs High School football program and its supporters soaked up the first game at the new Gardner Field in Steamboat, which, at kickoff, was just hours old after a $3.6 million rebuild.

It was an entirely new stadium, so it was befitting it was overtaken by an entirely new Steamboat Sailors football team, which ran up a 40-7 victory at home against Hotchkiss.

Entering their new confines on Friday night, the Sailors hadn’t won a game on their home field since 2016, but they came out with a furious pace, scoring three touchdowns in the first six minutes of the first quarter. They kept pouring it on throughout the first half on the way to a 40-7 victory.

Coach Shawn Baumgartner pulled his team into a tight circle after the game, applauded the fast start and the turnover-free football, then offered up a quick fact.

“You will be the only team to get the first win on this field,” he said.

It was an offensive explosion that made it happen, and Baumgartner said that started up front, which an offensive line that gave senior quarterback Drew Bowers plenty of time when he needed it.

He used that time to connect for three touchdown passes, the first, on the game’s opening drive, to junior Lowen Epstein, and two more to junior Tanner Raper.

Senior tailback Austin Ban found room to run, as well, racking up 115 yards on 15 carries in the first half. Sophomore Finn Russell also carried the ball, charging in for a 3-yard touchdown in the first half. Jameson Tracy rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter, setting the score at 40-0 and starting a running clock.

“Our offensive line has just been unbelievable this year,” Baumgartner said. “We’re playing to our strength right now, and that’s our offensive line.”

Tracy also had another spectacular play, picking off Hotchkiss quarterback Yahir Chavez on the game’s second drive and returning the interception all the way for a touchdown, Steamboat’s first defensive score of the season. It was one of three Steamboat interceptions.

The Sailors were stout on defense all night, allowing just four first downs in the first half.

The win bumps Steamboat to 2-3 on the season, though the road will likely get harder. Coming off a one-win season last year (the team also got a win via forfeit,) the team has been playing all of its games closer this season, though both of its wins are against Class 1A teams. It has next week off before it begins play in the Class 3A Western Slope league Oct. 4 with a trip to Palisade.

That wasn’t at the top of mind after Friday’s game, however. Instead, the Sailors were relishing in a sweet new feeling that came on the sweet new field.

“We brought our intensity,” Raper said. “We practiced hard during the week. We brought it all together and now we’re winning, playing as a team. I didn’t expect to get a running clock, but I expect we would play hard. It feels amazing.”

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