Sailors aim to keep ball rolling

Fifteen inches of early November snow forced school officials to move last season's football game between Steamboat Springs and Battle Mountain from Minturn to Steamboat.

And then it snowed all night in Steamboat, as the Sailors defeated the Huskies 49-6 a season ago.

Forecasts are calling for snow showers and rain in Minturn again this year, but all indications are Battle Mountain will host the 7 p.m. game today between the Sailors and Huskies.

Last season, Steamboat needed to defeat Battle Mountain to have an outside chance of making the playoffs as the wild card from Class 3A. But a convincing Sailors' win wasn't enough. Steamboat was shut out of the postseason.

This season, the game between Steamboat and Battle Mountain has no playoff implications. The Sailors, ranked fourth in Class 3A, have clinched a share of the Western Slope League title, and a win or loss against the Huskies, a nonleague opponent, has no bearing on where Steamboat sits in the standings.

Battle Mountain is playing an independent schedule for the second straight season and is ineligible for postseason play. The Huskies, a league opponent of the Sailors' in nearly every other sport, dropped out of the Western Slope League temporarily in an effort to rebuild their football program.

Much like Soroco did several years ago, Battle Mountain opted to leave its league and make its own schedule because low numbers made it difficult for the Huskies to compete against the larger schools in the league.

Battle Mountain's enrollment is 634 students, according to the Colorado High School Activities Association. Steamboat's enrollment is just 650, whereas Rifle and Palisade each have an estimated 900 students enrolled in their respective high schools.

The Huskies, with first-year coach Pat Engle, are 0-9 this season.

Today marks the final regular season game for the Sailors, and, if the weather plays out as forecast, a chance for the first-string offense to play in adverse conditions. Steamboat coach Mark Drake has said, however, that his starters will receive limited playing time because the final outcome of the game will not affect league standings.

Sitting at 8-1, the Sailors are poised to finish the regular season 9-1 and on a surge of momentum after huge wins against Rifle and Moffat County.

"I don't think anyone, including the players, realized that we would have been able to be in this kind of position at the beginning of the year," Drake said. "In spring, in mini-camps and in the summer camps they got more excited. We still knew we'd be young at certain positions. We knew we had some pretty good kids at the skill positions, but a great deal of credit has to go to our linemen on both sides of the ball, on how they've worked and come along. To come away with a share of the league title is a tremendous accomplishment."

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