Steamboat Springs The man holding the play books to the Steamboat Sailors defense is walking away from the sidelines after 30 years of coaching.
Bruce Wenzlau, a 55-year-old defensive coordinator who spent 13 years with the Sailors, recently announced his retirement.
His decision came shortly following the 2000 football season, when he helped lead the Sailors to a first-round state-playoff appearance.
Wenzlau has retired so he can spend more time with his family and watch his son, Jason, play football at Fort Lewis College, he said.
Wenzlau made his presence known on the field this past season. His defense allowed just 13.6 points per game and it pitched two shutouts.
The Sailors defense, otherwise known as the "Sell-out Blackshirts," says Wenzlau will be a big loss to the program.
"He was a great coach," said Blake Julian, who played middle linebacker last season. "That guy knew the defense inside and out and he knew all the offenses of our opposing teams.
"He spent so much time scouting teams and writing up plays and everything. He put in more time than anyone I knew.
"I think it's a huge loss," Julian said. "I don't know how they are going to replace him."
Wenzlau, a California native who grew up in Santa Barbara, spent nine years as an assistant high school football coach in Mesa, Ariz., before serving as head coach of the Hayden Tigers for eight years. He coached the rest of his career in Steamboat.
In college, Wenzlau played tight end at Southern Utah University.
He has a lot of memories, he says, but the one that sticks out the most is the 1990 state semifinal game between Steamboat and Manitou Springs at Gardner Field.
The Mustangs defeated the Sailors 14-7, though Wenzlau says it was arguably the finest performance by any of his defenses.
Steamboat held Manitou Springs to a single touchdown after the Mustangs returned the opening kickoff.
The Mustangs went on to win the state championship.
Wenzlau said it was a challenge trying to stop the Mustangs' Justin Armour, who went on to play in the NFL. Armour currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
Wenzlau was fortunate enough, he said, to have spent his final season coaching one of his best defenses ever.
"I didn't make it happen, the kids made it happen," Wenzlau said. "They were real good at making adjustments and doing the right things on the field. They just continued to get better."
Mark Drake, the Sailors' head coach, said the football program lost a very knowledgeable teacher in Wenzlau.
His replacement will be Lonny Clementson, who was an assistant for the Sailors last season.
"He had a good football mind, and he spent a lot of extra hours studying film and evaluating offenses," Drake said.