Steamboat Springs With the Western Slope League title on the line Friday, the showdown between Steamboat Springs and Rifle is a game both teams have anticipated for weeks.
But the Sailors (8-0) and Bears (7-1), who are currently sharing the No. 1 spot in the league, could both be missing some key players on Friday starters who helped to get the schools off to 5-0 league records.
In the second to last game of the regular season, both coaches say two of their top rushers are questionable for Friday's game, along with several starters on the defensive side.
"That happens this time of year with kids," Sailors coach Mark Drake said. "Everyone gets banged up. (Rifle) has enough athletes they can find some other guy to play. I'm sure they'll be tough."
For the Sailors, quarterback Tanner Barr and running back Joey Marias are still questionable with injuries, Drake said.
In last Saturday's game against Montezuma-Cortez, Barr sat out with an ankle injury for a portion of the first half.
Though Barr re-entered the game to help lead his team to a 20-6 win, including the final touchdown, Drake said that the injury might keep him out of the Rifle game.
Marias, who went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season against Cortez, also is questionable with an ankle injury. And Drake said he is unsure whether Gaspar Perricone (tight end and linebacker) and Steven Mahosky (lineman) will be able to play with rib injuries.
Ray Banning, who has been bothered by a sore knee, is also a question mark at defensive back and backup quarterback.
But Drake said both Banning and junior quarterback Joel Adams have spent more time behind center at practice this week.
While the Sailors are plagued with a number of injuries heading into Friday's game, the Bears also seem to be in the same situation.
"Right now, we're really hurt. We have a lot of kids hurt; we'll wait and see what happens," Bears coach Darrel Gorham said.
Gorham called his quarterback, Ryan Whittington, and leading rusher, Ryan Enright, both questionable for the matchup.
Enright, whom Gorham said has a sprained ankle, has been the Bears' go-to guy this season at tailback, rushing for 137 yards per game. Whittington is also a threat to the Sailors, averaging 83 yards on the ground and 121 through the air.
Gorham did not elaborate on Whittington's injury, but said with a state-playoff berth already secure, he is questioning whether to put Whittington in prematurely Friday and risk further injury.
Gorham also said he did not know if tight end Owen Madison would suit up. The Bears will have two defensive starters miss the game, Gorham said, due to academic ineligibility.
Rifle, whose only loss came at the hands of Fort Morgan in a non-conference game, suffered most of its injuries in its last two games against Battle Mountain and Delta, Gorham said.
"A number of losses were handed to us all at once," Gorham said. "It's to the point, I don't want to go out and practice. You can't hit or anything, because you might lose more kids."
Despite the injuries to the Sailors, both coaches are expecting a different Steamboat team on Friday from the one that trailed at halftime against Cortez on Saturday.
Although many of Gorham's players were watching the game from their home stands Cortez and Steamboat met at a neutral site in Rifle they are expecting more out of the Sailors.
"I think that (Steamboat) is a team that can turn it up; they're certainly a team that when they want to win they decide to turn it on," Gorham said.
"I don't expect a team to play like the team that played Saturday."