Longmont Five yards.
That's how close the Sailors' chance was to advance to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in almost eight years. It was as close as a fourth down, five yards from the end zone with less than 40 seconds left on the clock.
But, that is as close as it got as the Sailors' one last attempt to get the ball into the end zone was picked off by Niwot's Steve Lux. That final play of the season crushed the Sailors' hopes to tie up a 20-13 game against Niwot Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
With a running game stopped short, the Sailors offense changed leadership as junior quarterback Joel Adams replaced senior Tanner Barr with the Sailors down by seven points with less than two minutes left on the clock and 34 yards shy of the goal line.
In the following 60 seconds, the ball would land three times in the end zone, but each time short of a touchdown.
Adams first end zone target was wide receiver Chris Dombey, who was not able to hold onto the 23-yard pass in touchdown territory at the 1:28 mark. But the next pass to Dombey gave the Sailors a first down and put them 10 yards from the end zone.
Adams aimed for the end zone again, the second time for tight end Gaspar Perricone, which was also incomplete at around the goal line. On third down with nine yards to go, Adams launched the ball for a fourth time, which found its way into the hands of Cougar Jordan Dame who intercepted it deep in the end zone.
But, a Cougars' penalty put the ball back into Sailor possession and pushed them up four yards to give the Sailors one last shot on a fourth down and five yards to the end zone. In a final attempt, a Cougar tipped Adams' pass, which was picked up by Lux. That set the Cougars up to run off the last 34 seconds on the clock for the victory.
"We just didn't get the job done when we needed to. We did the best we could, but it wasn't good enough today," Sailors coach Mark Drake said.
It was a different ball game heading into halftime as the Sailors led 13-7.
On its first possession, Steamboat drove the ball down from the Niwot 36-yard line. At the one-yard line, running back Joey Marias carried the ball in for the touchdown.
"We made some adjustments. In the first drive they hammered it up there," Niwot coach Ron Tesone said. "We had just enough to get them out of running and make them throw."
And throw the Sailors did. Adams, Barr and Marias combined for 111 yards for the game, which was just shy of the 115 rushing yards totaled from Saturday's play.
An Adams' interception at the Cougars' 23-yard line set the Sailors up for their second and final touchdown. With just under two minutes left in the first half, the Sailors unleashed their trick play with a Barr halfback pass to Marias, who threw it 26 yards to receiver Adam Grimes waiting in the end zone.
The Sailors finished the half by holding the Cougars to four downs at the 38-yard line.
But as the Cougars were able to put a stop to the Sailors running game, it was the Cougars' ground game and the running of junior Aaron Gonzales that the Sailors could not quite handle.
Gonzales ran in all three of the Cougars' touchdowns. The running back broke up a 13-13 tie midway through the fourth quarter when he carried the ball in for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Sailors came back strong as Barr hurled a 39-yard pass to Wes Adams to put the Sailors at the 34-yard line. A Joe Liefer catch followed for the first down at the 17-yard line. But, costly penalties and a quarterback sack left the Sailors unable to dig out of a fourth down with 21 yards to go.
The Sailors were able to hold the Cougars at the 8-yard line to gain possession of the ball with two minutes left on the clock.
"I think we never gave up, never let our heads get low, we kept going," Liefer said of the team's final two drives down the field.
For 19 of the Sailors, Saturday's loss means an end to their high school football career and the disappointment showed as they knelt with heads bowed after the game.
"You can never replace being a Sailor, there is nothing like it in the world," offensive lineman Steve Mahosky said.