Sailors shake off sluggish start

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— Despite a sluggish start, the Steamboat Sailors came away with their seventh win of the season on Oct. 21, when the team routed the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers 46-12 at Palisade.

Led by their running backs, the Sailors gained 301 yards on the ground and rushed for seven touchdowns. Stewart Beall scored on runs of five yards, one yard and 14 yards. He also rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries and has 772 yards this season.

Tony Haight, who filled in for Derek Haverley at wingback, had 108 yards on nine carries, including a 37-yard touchdown run in the final quarter. Haverley, who has 488 yards on the season, missed the game with a groin injury.

Rusty Eck also contributed to the ground attack, scoring on option runs of 10 and 8 yards. The quarterback rushed for 55 yards on six carries. Joe Liefer also scored a touchdown when he took a handoff from Tanner Barr in the fourth quarter for a 14-yard score around the right side.

The Sailors may have placed 46 points on the board against the 0-8 Panthers, but coach Mark Drake described the win as lackluster. Steamboat was penalized four times in the game, committed five turnovers and was ahead just 20-12 after three quarters of play.

It was the third away game of the season for the Sailors, but it marked the first time they played on a Saturday. The earlier kickoff time of 1:30 p.m. proved detrimental in terms of momentum.

The Sailors fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and thereafter committed four turnovers in a sloppy first half.

Steamboat, 7-1 and 4-1, will have to get used to playing Saturday afternoons if the team makes it to state playoffs Nov. 10, Drake said.

More importantly, the Sailors have to cease making mistakes and come out flawless when they travel to Rifle Friday to play the 7-1 and 5-0 Bears.

"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."

Rifle, which defeated Montezuma-Cortez 62-9 earlier this season, comes off a 27-0 victory over Delta Oct. 20.

Against the Panthers, the Sailors were led on defense by Blake Julian and Gaspar Perricone, who made five tackles each. Ryan Wattles, Wes Adams, Jamie McKelvie and JoJo Bucci also had big days on the defensive side.

Wattles left the game early when he injured his right knee after making a tackle against Panthers quarterback Kevin Wayman.

Wayman had just busted free for a 45-yard run deep into Steamboat territory when Wattles exited the game during the second quarter.

Sailors guard Sam Ecker also suffered an injury to the left knee but played for the remainder of the game.

The Panthers' scores came on a 20-yard pass from running back Josh Lee to Richard Yake and on a 40-yard run by Lee.

Lee, who said he was proud of the way his team handled the Sailors early on, was stumped when asked where the Panthers lost the momentum. Steamboat scored 26 points in the fourth quarter.

"I don't know," Lee said. "They broke loose on a couple of touchdowns, I guess."

Other significant plays included a 13-yard sack by Perricone, an 8-yard interception return by Kyle Svendsen and a 16-yard run by Hunter Maddox on a fourth-and-seven.

Julian saw some action on the offensive side, too, as three Panthers' kickoffs tumbled short and fell into the players' hands. Julian's three kick returns went for 46 yards, for a 15.3 average.

The Sailors play the Bears at 7 p.m. Friday at Rifle.

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