Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Steamboat Springs The members of the Steamboat Springs football team know prized cinema.
Before every game they like to view a football flick from a list that includes such titles as "Varsity Blues," "Remember the Titans" or "The Program."
At 5 p.m. Friday at Gardner Field, the Sailors have a chance to write their own movie of sorts. It's the classic story of the undersized and undermanned team Steamboat versus the powerful foe Sierra.
Should everything go as hoped, the movie will have a happy ending and with an early start, the Sailors may even have time to ride into the sunset.
"It's going to be a tough one," Steamboat coach Mark Drake said. "I think we have a shot. If we play disciplined ball I think we can be in this ballgame."
Normally, Friday home games are at 7 p.m. and usually the opening game is against a smaller school, but the Sailors and Stallions had an open slot and the two found each other.
"We're probably one of the few schools that has a dropping enrollment in Colorado Springs," Sierra coach Kevin Gray said. "Actually because of the drop we're one of the new kids on the block. We had to go out searching."
Accustomed to playing road games in the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League and making it home in time to catch the highlights on the evening news, Sierra, now a 3A school, asked for Friday's kickoff to be moved up to 5 p.m. to accommodate its long drive.
Steamboat agreed, but Drake and his players aren't thrilled about the time alterations, considering a four or five-hour road trip is the norm for them, but they are fine with opening at Gardner Field.
"I haven't opened at home in a while so I'm pretty excited," senior Daniel Brenner said. "But I wish it was under the lights."
So does tradition.
In addition to the movie, the Sailors normally take the first steps onto the playing field the night before the game to do a walk-through in their game jerseys and pants.
No pads, just the team and the lights.
Instead, they will do the same this afternoon to prepare for the earlier kick.
However, the time of the kickoff and what happens the day before the game are of little concern to the Sailors.
More importantly, they must find a way to contain the Stallions' 230-pound fullback and some way to maneuver around all the stunts and blitzes Sierra will show.
Drake said the fullback, who also serves as the middle linebacker, isn't particularly fast or shifty, but he's powerful and his linebackers and defensive backs have been ordered to tackle low.
Senior defensive back Pat McMahon said they've got the message.
On the offensive side of the ball for Steamboat, Brenner the center said they don't plan on allowing Sierra to get into the backfield. The Sailors hope, even if Sierra does break through, the ball will be long gone.
The blitzing and the fullback are about all the Sailors have learned regarding Sierra.
Steamboat plans to deal with larger bodies all year, so Friday is no different.
"Just because they're bigger doesn't mean they'll hit hard," McMahon said.
Blessed with talent and speed in the backfield, the Sailors were dealt a blow when starting running back Zach Forcum sustained an injury that Drake said would prevent him from playing.
In fact, six players will be out of action with injuries, not to mention the pain many others will be playing with, suffering bumps and bruises through the beginning weeks of the season.
With the number of players closer to 50 rather than the normal 70, the Sailors are minus bodies that help in practice. To keep the players sharp, they must get hit outside of games. To keep them healthy, they must not get hit hard often.
Drake said they are finding a balance, and those young kids getting experience now will reap the benefits in years to come, but Drake said, "We're not selling the house" on the 2002 season.
Sierra will be a tough opener, something the Sailors are not used to, but in any good movie, the ending is unpredictable, and the struggle waged during the middle is often what captivates the audience and empowers the participants.
Brenner, ranked second in his class academically, said he often misses the pre-game movies to do homework.
This week, he said his work will be done and he'll be there.
This year's theme is TEAM, and Friday night Steamboat is counting on everyone to be a part of it.