Thursday, November 9, 2000
Steamboat Springs Steamboat football players experienced a flu epidemic within their locker room earlier in the week, but by 6 p.m. tonight, the Sailors say they will be ready for their playoff contest against the Conifer Lobos at Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.
Team captain JoJo Bucci sucked down some chicken noodle soup this week, he said, to remedy his ill condition.
Bucci isn't the only one still recovering from the nasty bug. Linebacker Gaspar Perricone, who was the first player to have the flu, passed it on to at least a dozen players, including starters Rusty Eck and Stewart Beall.
The Sailors would surely miss Eck at quarterback if he were not to start in the first round of the state playoffs. Eck has 1,278 yards of offense, including six touchdowns on the ground and 10 through the air.
Perricone has 51 tackles and 24 assisted tackles.
Beall, the team's leading rusher with 1,113 yards, can't afford to be missed, either. He has 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
The key to winning the game is to have a healthy squad, said Sailors coach Mark Drake, who leads his team into the playoffs with an 8-2 record.
Conifer, 9-1, lost its only contest to Sterling, which defeated the Lobos 20-19.
"Everybody is sick," Drake said on Wednesday. "Nobody is practicing. It's just been going on and on. Ecker's sick, Hays is sick, McKelvie's sick, Perricone was sick. Eck hasn't been here all week."
One would believe it couldn't get worse for Drake. But because of heavy snowfall, the Sailors were unable to practice for most of the week on Gardner Field. Since the field wasn't plowed, the players had to take to a different field and go through some shortened practices because the field has no lights.
Most of the players say they expect to be healthy for today's game, though, including Eck.
Steamboat's defense certainly must be back in top form if it expects to slow down an explosive Lobos offense that averages 33.6 points per game.
Conifer is led by quarterback Joe Budzien, who maybe has been the most dominant passer in the New Jefferson County 3A League this year. He has 1,593 yards through the air, along with 14 touchdowns. He also has rushed for four touchdowns.
Lobos running back Peter Larson has put up numbers similar to Beall's. Larson gained 1,169 yards rushing and has a conference-best 15 touchdowns.
The teams' defenses also are comparable, with Conifer allowing 7.3 points per game and Steamboat holding its opponents to a modest 13.3 points per game.
Linebacker Blake Julian leads the Sailors with 59 tackles and 41 assists, while Lobos linebacker Harlan Nimmo has 81 tackles.
Special teams, though, may make the difference in this offensive shootout. Adam Curtis, who leads the Lobos in receiving with 443 yards and five touchdowns, has returned three punts and a kickoff for a touchdown.
Derek Haverley leads Steamboat with 273 kick-return yards, and Beall has 193. Joe Liefer has 104 yards on punt returns, and Haverley has 102.
But Lobos coach Larry Fitzmaurice says his main concern is with Beall and Haverley in the backfield.
"I'm very impressed with them," Fitzmaurice said. "They're both good, hard-nosed running backs."
Tony Haight, who has 382 yards on 22 carries for the Sailors, says his offense will be challenged against an aggressive Lobos defense.
Raimundo Moreno, an offensive and defensive lineman, said the Sailors must repeat their performance against Delta when they rolled for 56 points.
In the Delta game, Steamboat rushed for 533 yards on 69 carries. The Panthers were held to 14 points and 27 yards passing. Haverley had 159 yards on 15 carries and caught two passes for 34 yards. He also had touchdowns both rushing and receiving.
Haverley says the 2000 season has been a memorable one for his team.
"This season has been great to all of us so far," Haverley said. "We had really good unity this year, compared to any other year I think.
"It just feels good, you know. I have respect for all the teams that are on that bracket in the playoffs. So, you can't underestimate anyone."
Hunter Maddox, who has 268 yards rushing and 102 receiving, makes his first playoff appearance today with most of his other Sailors teammates.
"It's the biggest game of my life, so far," Maddox said. "We're just trying to get to 100 percent and ready to go. I think our team will be ready."
To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com