Steamboat Springs It took a blocked field goal and a heroic stance from the Sailors' defense in the fourth quarter to seal Steamboat a spot in the state playoffs.
In what Sailors coach Mark Drake called an entire team effort, Steamboat pulled out a win in the final minutes of the game to beat Delta 22-15 and finish as the second-place team in the Western Slope Conference.
Entering the fourth quarter at 15-15, the Sailors' defense held strong on a Panthers' drive from the 36-yard line.
At the 12-yard line, the Sailors did not let the Panthers into the end zone and kept them from gaining a first down. On fourth down, the Panthers went for the field goal but the Sailors blocked it to take over at the 18-yard line.
"We didn't make the plays when we needed to," Panthers coach Derek Carlson said of his team, whose only chance to make it to the playoffs was to win Friday's game.
After driving the ball down to the 33-yard line, Sailors quarterback Tanner Barr fumbled the ball, which Panther Cody Hudson picked up and ran to the 34-yard line.
Midway into the fourth quarter and the score still tied, the Sailors' defense held strong once again by not letting the Panthers gain a first down.
Defenseman Daniel Brenner dragged the Panthers runner back five yards to leave the Panthers with 17 yards to go on fourth down.
"We knew what was on the line," defensive back Ray Banning said. "When the plays came, we knew we had to step up. The inside guys came up big."
With just minutes left on the clock, the Sailors took the field at the 31-yard line where on the first play Joey Marias broke loose down the left side and ran the ball for 45 yards. That play jump-started the offense as it worked its way down the field until Barr made good on a quarterback keeper around the left corner for a two-yard touchdown.
Barr's touchdown and a Jeff Franks' kick was all the Sailors needed to pull ahead as the defense held the Panthers off for the last three minutes of the game.
The win puts Steamboat second in the league and into the playoffs where it will most likely face Niwot.
"Coming in with two returning starters on both sides of the ball, they didn't give us much hope," Drake said. "We are in the play-offs now. It was an overall team effort, it wasn't one individual."
But the Sailors chances for the playoffs were looking grim as they entered into halftime down 15-7. With just seconds left in the half and deep into Panthers' territory, Barr's pass to the middle of the field was intercepted by Ramon Jackson, who slipped through the Sailors and ran for 70 yards to take the ball down to the 29-yard line.
With five seconds left, Cariquist threw an incomplete pass, but the Sailors were called for pass interference. With time expired and one more shot for Delta, the Panthers went for a field goal and tacked on another three points.
The Sailors rebounded on the first drive in the second half. To even the score, Tim Higbee scored a 5-yard touchdown and Barr ran in a two-point conversion.