State-bound

Sailors coach, lineman selected to 2002 all-star game at UNC

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— The last time Mark Drake coached the all-state team; it was two years after the Sailors won the state championship and the year record-setting Tom Southall and Fred Latimer played for the Sailors.

In July 1981, Drake coached the all-state game in which fullback Latimer scored a touchdown and running back Southall intercepted the ball and ran in the winning touchdown to give the North team a 20-14 win.

Twenty years later, Drake will return to coach the all-state game, which this year will be held at the University of Northern Colorado on June 14, 2002. This time, it's with a new player and for a different team.

Drake will get to coach 40 players on the South team, which pulls seniors from Colorado's 6-man football teams to 5A schools. Sailors lineman Mike Radford will be coming with him for a full week of practice before the game is played on Friday.

Drake was one of four coaches in Colorado chosen by the Colorado Coaches Association to coach the all-state game's South team. He will be joined by Alamosa's Manny Wasinger, who led the Mean Moose to a 4A state championship this year, and Paul Colgate, who coaches the 5A Colorado Springs school Wasson.

"It's kind of a nice honor," Drake said. "You get to see other kids and work with some other coaches."

While Steamboat has the chance to send players to the all-state game about every other year, this will be just the second time in Drake's 33-year coaching career that he will have the chance to coach the most talented football players in the state.

"It's a really nice honor for kids to get to go and play. They get an idea of how they size up. Nine times out of 10, they can hold their own with those kids," Drake said.

Each year, the league gets to choose two players to compete in the all-state game. Radford's automatic berth came when the 3A Western Slope League coaches chose him as the outstanding lineman of the year. Rifle's Ryan Whittington, who the league picked as the outstanding running back, will join him.

Playing on the line both offensively and defensively, Radford was a major contributor during the Sailors' 10-2 season, which included a trip to the first round of the state playoffs. He finished the season with 53 tackles and three sacks.

"(Radford was) one of those kids that never came off the field. He stayed out there on the field a lot of the time. Those kinds of kids don't get that much recognition," Drake said.

To go to the all-State game, Radford will be looking for sponsors to help with the $250 sponsorship fee.

Drake said for him the work for the all-state game would begin in May when he and the three other coaches will start looking at how the 40 players will fit into the lineup. The Sunday before the game, the players will arrive to begin a 5-day training camp.

If any of the 40 players cannot participate in the all-state game, Drake said the Western Slope's alternate players might get a chance to play.

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