Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs will face a team already plagued by injuries in Thursday's seasoner opener against Middle Park.
Seven Panthers all potential starters will be out of commission when they meet the Sailors in Granby, coach Tim Stonerook said. Among those who will miss the game are running back and linebacker Kelsey Romfhek and offensive and defensive lineman Nathan Macchione.
"Right now at the start of season, these kids (with injuries) are challenging for first positions or are really strong backups," Stonerook said.
Stonerook is in his first year as head coach of the Panthers, having replaced Jack Dugwyler, whose team lost to the Sailors 41-0 last season. He said he doesn't know much about Steamboat's team this year, but he expects the Sailors to be tough.
"Steamboat has a strong tradition," he said. "It's the same this year."
Sailors coach Mark Drake said he doesn't know much about Middle Park either.
"We went and looked at last year's tapes. Originally we set a lot of stuff up," Drake said. "With a new coach, it's completely different. There's a lot of adjusting to do."
Although Drake has been able to get notes on the Panthers' scrimmages last weekend against Jefferson Academy and Limon High School, he said the early Thursday game doesn't leave his team with much time to prepare. He plans on adapting to Middle Park's offense and defense during the game.
"It will be good for the kids; they'll learn to adjust," he said. "I like our chances."
Stonerook said his team is smaller in both size and numbers than last year's Panthers' squad.
Four defensive and three offensive starters return, including quarterback Ryan Karas and wide receiver and running back Paul Box.
Stonerook also noted offensive tackle Brian Boyes returns and will be a factor in Thursday's game.
Stonerook said defensive tackle Ryan Johnston and linebacker Kyle Ruedfield are the leaders on his defense.
Drake said his team is spending the week working on fundamentals.
The Sailors have remained relatively healthy throughout the preseason. Running back Joey Marias is nursing a sore ankle after Saturday's scrimmage. Senior quarterbacks Tanner Barr (sore shoulder) and Ray Banning (sore knee) are still recuperating from injuries suffered earlier this year.
Both are expected to play Thursday. Everyone else is relatively healthy.
"Mostly just petty little injuries," Drake said. "Nothing to keep the main starters out."