Thursday, August 24, 2000
Steamboat Springs After a 7-3 finish in 1999, the Steamboat Sailors football team has some unfinished business to attend to this season.
The Sailors, who will scrimmage Summit High School and West Grand High School in Summit County this weekend, want more than anything a berth in the state playoffs, said senior defensive linebacker Jo Jo Bucci.
That goal doesn't seem far out of reach, considering the Sailors' defense has nine starters returning from last year and former offensive line coach Bob Harris has been brought back to help the offense.
Harris retired in 1995 from the football team to serve as principal of Steamboat Springs Middle School. Sailors head coach Mark Drake said Harris is a valuable asset who brings a much-needed attitude back to the team.
"He's a hard-nosed type coach who will get the kids prepared physically for the pounding that takes place," Drake said.
Running back Stewart Beall said the offensive line will play a valuable role in his team's ability to run the ball this year.
"I think we have good depth at offensive line and getting those guys skilled will make us one hundred percent better," Beall said.
Last year's offensive line lost key players in tackle Kevin Hensen and guard Frank Leonard, but most players are confident about the size and strength of this year's line. Steve Mahosky, a junior lineman, weighs close to 250 and Tristan Covillo, a senior lineman, weighs 235.
Drake said he feels confident about his team's ability to run the ball once the line gets going. Quarterback Rusty Eck powers the Sailors Delaware-style Wing T offense, with Beall at running back and Blake Julian at fullback. Eck, who stands at 6-foot-6, should be a force to reckon with.
"The key is to keep everyone healthy," Drake said. "Depth is something you're always concerned about."
Defensive coordinator Bruce Wenzlau will run a 4-3 type defense, though he expects less man-to-man coverage this year and more zone coverage. The nine starters returning on defense should provide the leadership necessary to take the Sailors to the playoffs, Bucci said.
If it was any indication of the attitude of this year's football players, the team was busy on Monday motivating itself in the locker room to music from AC~DC a heavy-metal rock band known for its adrenaline-pumping lyrics.
Bucci said he expected good leadership by the seniors this year, and a hungry squad eager to reach the playoffs. He said he expected the defense to improve tremendously from last year, especially in their team speed.
"A lot of our linebackers have dropped about two-tenths off their 40 (yard dashes)," Bucci said.
Though he didn't talk about his team's chances of going to the playoffs, Drake sounded optimistic about the season, and about the work ethic of his players during summer two-a-day practices.
"We've got a long way to go, but there's some good potential here," Drake said. "There's a bunch of good kids this year with some good experience."
The Sailors will continue with their Wing T offense, Drake said, but will seek to run the ball more, including more option and power plays.
"If we can expand our offense so we're not predictable, we've got the talent to expand that and still maintain our techniques and soundness," he said.
The Sailors open their 2000 schedule at home on Sept. 1 against Middle Park.
The Sailors, who are in the Western Slope Conferences 3A division, will miss Eagle Valley High School and Gunnison High School this year, who have both left the conference. Palisade High School and Cortez High School will both join the Western slope Conference.
The Sailors boast about 80 players between their junior varsity and varsity teams this year.