Grand Junction The Steamboat Springs High School football team didn't make many mistakes in Friday night's game, but the ones the squad did commit turned out to be costly in a 36-33 loss to Palisade.
"They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves," Sailors head coach Mark Drake said as he walked off the Stocker Stadium Field after the loss.
Drake cited several different plays he thought were key in the loss. A dropped pass that looked like it would go for a touchdown in the first half and another dropped pass on a 2-point conversion late in the game stood out. But Drake said his team also made some key mistakes on defense and committed way too many penalties during the contest.
Still, he added that he was proud of the way his players battled in the back-and-fourth contest and despite losing thought it was a remarkable effort by his players.
"There is no doubt, we definitely beat ourselves tonight," quarterback Rusty Eck said, seeming to echo the words of his coach after the game.
"We moved the ball up and down the field all night, but we made a lot of mistakes at key points in the game. That's why we lost."
Steamboat's offense rolled up 159 yards rushing on 33 attempts. The passing game was also working as Eck connected on 12 of 20 attempts for 188 yards.
But it was mistakes by both sides that proved to be a determining factor in a contest between two evenly matched teams. Steamboat's seemed to come at crucial points.
Steamboat was able to capitalize on a Palisade mistake early in the game to take the lead. Bulldog running back Donnie Gates fumbled the ball deep in his own team's end, and Sailors defensive lineman Steve Mahosky was there to scoop it up. A few plays later, Steamboat's Derek Haverley, who led Steamboat in receiving on the night with 61 yards, made the mistake hurt as he pulled in a 32-yard pass from Eck and put the Sailors on top 7-0.
Palisade answered the call, however, putting together a five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive of their own that thrilled the huge hometown crowd that had come for the homecoming contest. Bulldog tight end Mark Blanchard pulled in a Josh Rosemary pass for the touchdown. The Bulldogs tacked on the extra point to make the score 7-7 with 7 minutes, 14 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
After that, a see-saw battle ensued. Steamboat put together a nine-play drive which started deep in the Sailors' own end. Stewart Beall polished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Steamboat a 14-7 lead after one quarter of play. Beall led the Sailors in rushing with 105 yards on 21 attempts.
Palisade netted two touchdowns in the second quarter the first coming with 9:25 left to play. Chad Kelly scored on a five-yard run to knot the score at 14 points apiece.
Steamboat rebounded with another long drive that included a key fourth-and-three play. Eck was able to scamper the final four yards for the touchdown. Steamboat 's Andrew Porter-Merrill netted the extra point and Steamboat took a 21-14 lead with 3:47 to go.
But Palisade wouldn't give in and just three plays and less than a minute later the score was tied once again, this time at 21 points apiece thanks to a 42-yard touchdown run by Palisade's Clint Clinkenbeard.
"We came out kind of slow in the third quarter," Drake said. "It took us a while to get things going again and that hurt."
Neither team scored in the third quarter as the defenses stepped it up. But in the fourth, the offensive fireworks returned and this time it was Palisade going on the attack.
Gates scored the first of two touchdowns to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 28-21.
Steamboat offense stalled on the next drive, but when Palisade dropped the punt and Steamboat recovered, things started to get interesting. The Sailors drove to the 1-yard line and Beall pounded it in from there to pull his team to within 1 point.
But the Sailors didn't go for the tie and pulled out all the stops on a fake extra-point attempt. The 2-point conversion almost worked, but Haverley's pass was dropped in the end zone making the score 28-27 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
But the game wasn't over.
Gates scored again with just less than five minutes remaining in the contest to give Palisade a 34-27 lead. The Bulldogs' 2-point attempt was successful as Kelly caught a pass and ran into the end zone making the score 36-27.
But Eck and the Sailors also had some offensive power left. Eck hit several key passes as he moved Steamboat down the field quickly. His final pass connected with Ryan Wattles and pulled the Sailors to within 3 points at 36-33. But the Sailors' special teams fell apart on the PAT attempt as the ball sailed over the holder's head. Porter-Merrill fell on the ball, but Steamboat missed another chance.
Palisade was able to recover the on sides kick attempt and run the final 2:42 seconds off the clock for the win.
The Bulldogs finished with 246 yards on the ground and 94 yards in the air.
"It was great high school football," Bulldogs coach Todd Casebier said. "We had some players make some mistakes, but they came back and made some big plays. I think it was the same for Steamboat."
Casebier said he wasn't surprised to see the Sailors go for 2 points instead if trying to tie the score late in the game.
"If I had been in that situation, I would have made the same call," Casebier said. "It was just one of those games that really could have gone either way."
Steamboat is now 4-1 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Palisade is also 4-1 and 2-0 in the conference.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org