Sailors looking for win in league opener

2007 Sailors Football

* -- State playoff game.
Past Event

Steamboat football vs. Palisade

  • Thursday, September 25, 2008, 7 p.m.
  • Gardner Field, 45 East Maple St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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Winning nonleague games is great - they build confidence, show how a team compares statewide and can help a team knock off any of the rust that wind sprints and power cleans didn't fix in the summer.

But league games are where playoff teams are made.

The Steamboat Springs High School football team opens Western Slope League play at 7 p.m. tonight against league rival Palisade at Gardner Field. Both teams will begin the quest to be one of the four teams from the league to earn a playoff bid.

Steamboat and Palisade enter the game in identical positions. Both are 1-1 and coming off nonleague losses to larger schools.

"It's hard to judge what happened (in the Palisade loss), but I know their coaches weren't real happy with the first half," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. "I don't think either of us were looking past our opponents, but I'm sure it was on our minds."

Last week, Steamboat fell to Laramie, Wyo., 34-7, while Palisade dropped a game to Grand Junction Central, 21-14.

In Palisade's game, the Bulldogs trailed 21-0 late in the fourth quarter before their comeback fell short.

The normally potent Palisade ground game gained only 133 yards in the loss.

But Finch said Palisade is still so dominant that it might as well have a second mortgage at the top of the Class 3A state rankings.

Palisade still likes to line up and pound the ball on the ground. The Bulldogs are still aggressive on defense, and they still like to physically dominate teams on the offensive and defensive lines.

And this year - to the collective sighs of opponents - Palisade looks to have a better passing game than in recent years.

Through two games, the Bulldogs have more than 250 yards in the air - and more than 300 on the ground, making them difficult to defend.

"Offensively, they run the ball really well," Finch said. "It's good, old-school football. But overall, they look really solid to me."

The task at hand for the Sailors won't only be stopping the multifaceted Bulldogs offense, but also getting their own offense on track.

"We're gradually getting better every week," Finch said. "The work ethic in practice and the coaches understanding the personnel. The nice thing is we'll keep getting better."

One area Steamboat has to improve is running the ball. Coming into today's game, the Sailors have managed only 3.1 yards per carry.

While the running game has struggled, first-year quarterback Austin Hinder has thrown the ball well. The sophomore is completing better than 68 percent of his passes and has shown a pocket presence beyond his years.

"We've been impressed," Finch said. "When you can have a young sophomore making decisions he's making and stay within the game plan each week, you're happy."

The Sailors will have to put it all together against Palisade. Finch said he doesn't see a big play happening on offense, and said it will take Steamboat moving the chains methodically down the field to win.

Although there will be seven more league games for the Sailors after tonight, Finch said in a league like the Western Slope, a team can never be passive and count the games it has remaining.

"They all matter," he said.

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