Steamboat Springs Sailors fans are unlikely to forget three years ago, when the Spartans of Salida High School ended Steamboat's football season in the first round of the state playoffs.
The 34-10 loss sent the Sailors back home after a terrific 10-2 season and kept the Spartans in the mix of the playoffs, where they finished ranked No. 2 in the state.
In 1999, Salida lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Evergreen High School after a thrilling overtime game that ended the Spartans' season at 7-4.
With nine starters returning from last year's Spartans squad, Sailors coach Mark Drake said Steamboat has its hands full. Steamboat, 1-0, is ranked No. 8 in state 3A football, coming off an impressive 41-0 whitewash of Middle Park High School in the Sept. 1 home opener.
The Sailors play host to the Spartans at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Drake knows the contest will be a tough challenge.
"They made the playoffs last year," Drake said. "They lost to a big school in Evergreen, in overtime.
"They lost a few people from last year, but we don't have any film on them other than last year's tape. And they looked really good on tape from last year."
One of Steamboat's goals this week will be to add more pass plays to its offensive scheme. The Sailors ran over Middle Park for 350 yards but threw just 12 passes last weekend. Drake figures his team needs to put the ball in the air 15 to 18 times to be more successful against the Spartans. Rusty Eck charges the Sailors' high-powered offense at quarterback, where he threw for 113 yards last weekend.
Cameron Davidson will take the snaps for the Spartans. Davidson, who also plays safety, has little experience at the quarterback position, Spartans coach Bob Sanders said.
Davidson suits up at quarterback on Friday for only the second time in his career, where he's likely to operate behind a shaky offensive line.
Last week against Rifle High School, Salida saw its line break down on numerous occasions en route to a 34-6 loss to the Bears.
"There wasn't anything I could really point to that we did outstanding on offense," Sanders said.
Facing Salida, which is 2A, will still be a hard fought contest for Steamboat, Drake said.
"They're traditionally a school that has an outstanding program, and they're always up there at the top year in and year out," Drake said. "We know it should be a real tough ball game."
Offensively, the Sailors will be without star running back Stewart Beall, who sprained his right ankle last week against Middle Park. Beall is projected to play next weekend when Steamboat visits Highland High School.
Derek Haverley will lead the Sailors running attack, while Joe Liefer makes the transition to Haverley's usual wingback slot.
Offensive lineman Scott Middleton and defensive back Mark McCullough are both out for the Sailors with knee injuries.
Defensively, the same starters from last week's game return for Steamboat. Blake Julian led the Sailors in their 41-0 demolition of the Panthers with nine tackles.
Sanders was impressed by Steamboat's offense and defense two weeks ago, when Steamboat traveled to Summit for a pre-season scrimmage. Sanders was at the scrimmage doing some scouting work.
"They did well in the scrimmage," Sanders said. "Steamboat does things well. I thought the quarterback did an excellent job, and so did the running backs. Their youngsters are well prepared."
The Spartans will run a one-back formation on offense, with Josh Hightower starting at running back. Jim Curran fills in at the wingback position.
Sanders said the contest at Steamboat will be a much-needed learning experience for his young group of players.
"We're probably, at this point in time, a week to a week-and-a-half behind where we feel we need to be," Sanders said. "We better have better play or we're going to be in for a long night."
Drake said today's game is a crucial test for his Sailors, who don't know much about the offensive and defensive styles of Salida.
Drake expects Salida to do a lot of trapping inside on offense and to use a number of double and triple formations.
The Spartans ran some 4-4 and 5-3 defense on last year's game tapes, Drake said.
"This will be a better team than that from last week," Drake said. "It's going to be a little better of a test for us to see just what caliber we are in there."
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