Sailors dominate Panthers in opener

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— It may have taken an entire quarter for them to find a groove, but the Steamboat Sailors dominated the final three quarters against the Middle Park Panthers on Friday night, steam-rolling their way to a 41-0 shutout victory.

The Sailors looked impressive on their opening kickoff, when players Ryan Wattles and Tim Hays creamed Middle Park kick returner Scott Eaker at the Panther 20-yard line. But it took some time after the first play for the Sailors to get the kinks out of their system.

Neither team scored in the first quarter, and the Sailors looked sloppy at times in their mud-soaked uniforms. A bad snap lead to quarterback Rusty Eck being sacked for 15 yards.

Running back Stewart Beall sprained his right ankle in the first quarter after rushing for 23 yards, but Derek Haverly led the team on 10 carries for 73 yards, despite having a sore groin muscle. Eck had a 34-yard run in the first quarter and finished the day with six carries for 72 yards, along with 113 yards passing.

The spark the Sailors needed came toward the end of the quarter, when safety Kyle Svendsen read a pass over the middle and came away with a 7-yard interception return.

The team went to work early in the second quarter, as Eck completed a 22-yard pass to tight end Tim Hays for the game's first touchdown. Andrew Porter-Merrill added an extra point, as the Sailors took a 7-0 lead. Haverly scored on a 3-yard run later in the quarter, after a Svendsen 25-yard reception from Eck.

Fullback Blake Julian found the end zone again for the offense at 1:39 remaining in the quarter. Julian shined brighter on defense, however, leading the team with nine tackles, followed by linebacker Jamie McKelvie with five tackles and two assists.

The Sailors led the Panthers 19-0 at halftime, and showed no mercy as they trudged onto their home field in the second half to pick up where they left off.

Linebacker Gaspar Perricone had a sack for 7 yards, and Julian continued his dominance with several tackles for losses.

The only score of the third quarter came on an Eck 25-yard pass to Haverly.

Running back Tony Haight had a 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, followed by Joe Liefer's 4-yard touchdown run at the 8:45 mark. Porter-Merril added a 30-yard field goal late in the quarter to close out the scoring.

Head coach Mark Drake was pleased with the effort of the team.

"It was a good start for us," Drake said. "The kids got confidence under their belt. They really did an outstanding job, I felt."

"We started a little slow and sluggish there, but they kept pounding away and pounding away and I think we wore them down there at the end," Drake added.

Svendsen, who had an interception along with Levi Muhme, said his team needs to pick up the intensity heading into next week's game against Salida at home.

Offensive line coach Bob Harris said the team's ability to overcome a slow start was a good sign for the football team.

"We wore them down toward the end and the kids played really good," Harris said.

"The line showed a lot of improvement from the scrimmage last week and we were getting off quicker and making our blocks especially in the second and third and fourth quarters."

Jack Dugwyler, Middle Park coach, said his team would rebound after the shut-out loss to Steamboat.

"We'll watch the film, and we'll find out what we need to do," Dugwyler said. "We'll be back."

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail erineer@amigo.net

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