Palisade Stewart Beall scored three touchdowns, and Rusty Eck ran for two more, as the Steamboat Sailors overcame some nasty weather at Palisade on Saturday to defeat the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers 46-12.
The Sailors rolled for 26 points in the fourth quarter after playing through a windstorm for the previous two quarters. Beall rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries, and scored two of his team's touchdowns in the final quarter.
Eck, who finished on 5-15 passing with one interception, ran for 55 yards. The quarterback scored in each of the first two quarters on option plays around the left side.
The 0-8 Panthers made a game of it for the first three quarters. The Sailors, 7-1, saw their lead slip to 20-12 after running back Josh Lee broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown. The Panthers' score came at the 4-minute, 29-second mark of the third quarter.
Lee also threw for a touchdown when he took a handoff from quarterback Kevin Wayman and found Richard Yake on a 20-yarder near the left corner of the end zone.
Montezuma-Cortez was led by its hawking defensive line, which kept the Sailors in check for most of the way. The Panthers' line averages about 220 pounds.
Sailors tackle Steve Mahosky, who weighs in at about 245 pounds, was more impressed by the speed of the Panthers' defensive tackles, he said.
"They were just really quick," Mahosky said. "Once we figured them out, we adjusted accordingly."
It took them about 36 minutes to figure out the Panthers, but in the end, the Sailors nailed their season averages head on. The offense, which averages 46 points per game, scored exactly that number. The defense, which allows 12 points per game, gave up 12 points.
The Sailors defense was led by its linebackers, who made 13 tackles and three sacks. Gaspar Perricone had two sacks, including one in which he wrestled Wayman to the ground for a 13-yard loss.
Montezuma-Cortez dropped its fifth consecutive league game of the season despite showing an improved performance from last week's 50-0 loss to Palisade, Lee said.
"We played really well against the No. 7-ranked team in the state," Lee said. "We played a great first half."
Steamboat, 4-1 in the league, now looks ahead to a showdown with Rifle on Friday. Rifle comes off a 27-0 win over Delta, which dropped Delta to 4-4 and 3-2. The Bears are 7-1 and 5-0.
The Steamboat vs. Rifle contest has important implications in regards to the regional playoffs.
The Sailors would move to the No. 2 spot in the conference if they win Friday.
A Steamboat win also would mean a higher seed for the Sailors in the playoffs. If they did lose to the Bears, the Sailors would still qualify for the playoffs if they defeat the Delta Panthers Nov. 3. The top three teams in the conference go to regionals.
Steamboat coach Mark Drake described the win over Montezuma-Cortez as a lackluster performance. The Sailors fumbled four times and lost all of them. The team also had an interception and was penalized four times.
"We can't play like that next week and expect to stay in there with Rifle," Drake said. "We've got to go in there and get the job done."
Beall now has 11 touchdowns, followed by Derek Haverley, who has 10. Eck increased his passing yardage to 828 and has 319 yards on the ground.
Haverley, who sat out the Montezuma-Cortez game with an injury, has 488 yards rushing. Beall leads the team with 772 yards.
Tony Haight, who rushed for 108 yards against the Panthers, scored on a 37-yard run in the fourth quarter. Joe Liefer also scored in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run. Kyle Svendsen added an interception.
The Sailors will play the Bears at 7 p.m. Friday at Rifle. Mahosky said his team would need to work on correcting its mistakes.
"We have a lot to do this week before we'll be ready for Rifle," Mahosky said.
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