Steamboat Springs After two long road trips, the Steamboat Sailors football team will get to play on its own turf for the first time this season Friday.
Steamboat (2-0) will play host to Highland (1-1), which head coach Mark Drake said is a different team from the one the Sailors annihilated 48-3 last year.
"Highland is a much better ball club," Drake said. "They only lost five kids. There's quite a lot of experience there."
What was a young team last year has turned into an experienced team with most of its starting lineup returning . Some of that returning experience lies on the defensive line, including Matt Case and Manuel Banuelos, who were Northern Plain all-conference selections last year.
The Huskies offense also has experience with its quarterback, Jason Martinez.
Martinez has several talented receivers to go to and a couple of very capable running backs.
In a 26-6 win over Erie in its opening game, Highland's leading rusher was Curtis Martinez and the leading receiver was Keno Geno.
Huskies coach Tom Bergstrom said he has a well balanced offense that rushed for 429 yards and passed for 330 yards in the last two games. The Huskies offense, Bergstrom said, mainly runs the ball, working the pass game off its run.
But, the Huskies weren't able to get their offense off the ground last weekend during a 21-0 loss to Estes Park.
Bergstrom said his team's biggest weakness is not completing drives. Last weekend's game saw the Huskies drive four times past the 20-yard line only to come up short on each occasion.
"We need to work to maintain drives; to finish on the goal line with the offense completing drives and getting points," he said.
But coming off a 2-6 season in 2000, Bergstrom said his players are more experienced.
"We're a year older and have been more competitive in the games that we've played to date," Bergstrom said.
The Huskies have been preparing for the Sailors' offense, which last week put up 35 points against the Salida Spartans.
Sailors running back Joey Marias accounted for 108 of the team's 314 yards on the ground. Marias scored three times, including two runs, one of which was a 64-yard burst.
Tanner Barr threw for 103 yards against Salida. Adam Grimes led the Sailors with 35 yards receiving.
"They ran an offense that can attack at a number of places, we'll be prepared to defend that," Bergstrom said.
In Steamboat's last game before league competition begins, Drake is hoping to iron out his offense before facing Glenwood Springs on the road Sept. 21.
One of Drake's main concerns is decreasing team penalties. In the Salida game, Steamboat was penalized 13 times and lost a fumble.
"We're definitely going to try and make some improvements. Eliminate mistakes, dumb penalties and missed assignments," Drake said.
Drake said his players are excited to play at home after two away games, one including a bus drive from Salida through last weekend's snowstorm that did not have the team arriving back to Steamboat until 3:30 a.m.
Before tonight's game, the Ore House is sponsoring a free tailgate party in the high school parking lot.