Football eager for league play

Heading into Friday's meeting with Berthoud, Steamboat Springs football coach Mark Drake wanted his team to be consistent on offense, defense and special teams with the all-important league season quickly approaching.

Against the Spartans on Friday, the Sailors showed that all three aspects of their game are capable of scoring on big plays, which forces opposing Western Slope coaches and players to make sure they're ready for every play.

Chris Dombey and Lonny Radford have returned interceptions for touchdowns this season. Radford's 98-yard pick return Friday ended the Spartans' bid to tie the game, while subsequently giving the Sailors' a 14-point lead and lifting an offense that spent most of the second and third quarters in neutral.

On Friday, Steamboat again went to the air more frequently than in recent years, opting to let the ball fly early and often against Berthoud. Drake wants to use the pass to set up the run because he has confidence that starting quarterback David May and the receivers can open the field.

However, take away the 14 points scored by Steamboat's defense and special teams, and the game would have been tied at 7.

Credit Berthoud's defense for concentrating on stopping the run, but against league opponents such as Palisade, Rifle and Moffat County, Steamboat may have to find a way to gather more than 131 total rushing yards to win.

The Sailors had just 42 rushing yards in the first half of Friday's game and seven points off Radford's 63-yard punt return and Tyler Fosdick's converted extra point. May and Brad Bonner combined to complete 9-of-19 attempts for 145 yards, including Bonner's 40-yard touchdown strike to Radford.

Defensively, however, Steamboat managed to improve on its pass defense Friday. In the season's first two games, against Sierra and Eagle Valley, Steamboat surrendered an average of 136 passing yards per contest. Friday, the Sailors gave up 22 yards.

While going 3-0, Steamboat continues to maintain its large margin in points scored, total yards gained and turnover ratio. Friday, May threw his first interception of the season in 51 attempts, while the defense again intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

On the negative side, over their first three games, the Sailors have led their opposition in penalties. Steamboat is being penalized an average of seven times a game for 68 yards.

One reason the Sailors had difficulty moving the ball Friday stemmed from the fact that they frequently found themselves in predictable second-and-13 or third-and-13 situations, particularly in the first three quarters.

"We played well," Fosdick said following the 20-7 victory against Berthoud. "But penalties killed us."

On the flip side, the Spartans were penalized three times for 30 yards.

Nonetheless, the Sailors are undefeated heading into league play. Palisade, one of the early favorites to win the Class 3A state championship, is the only other Western Slope team that remains undefeated.

Steamboat (3-0) and Palisade (4-0) are scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction.

Before that contest, Steamboat will open the league season against Montezuma-Cortez at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Gardner Field. Palisade faces defending league champion Rifle at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in Rifle.

"We want to go into the Palisade game undefeated," Fosdick said. "But we can't look ahead. We have to take it one game at a time."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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