Steamboat Springs Despite a perfect non-conference record, the Steamboat Sailors football team feels it has a lot to fix this week before its first league game.
Tim Higbee, a sophomore fullback who rushed for 24 yards in last night's 24-7 home win over Highland, said the team must eliminate making careless mistakes.
The Sailors enter league competition on the road against the Glenwood Springs Demons on Friday. Although Glenwood is off to an 0-2 start, Steamboat's league schedule eventually includes showdowns with traditional powerhouses Rifle and Palisade.
Through their first three games this season, the Sailors have been penalized 32 times, and have coughed up the ball on three occasions numbers that have the coaches and players very concerned as they head into league competition.
"We just need to come together more as a team and start focusing, really, on the league play," Higbee said.
With a big victory against Highland this weekend at Gardner Field, the Sailors' locker room should have been pretty rowdy after a lopsided home-opening win.
But Sailors coach Mark Drake said the team was subdued coming off of a game marred by critical offensive penalties and a lack of quarterback protection.
"The locker room was pretty solemn, they weren't whooping it up and hollering," Drake said.
The Sailors (3-0) were looking to iron out their offensive attack against the Huskies (1-2) before heading to Glenwood.
But, breakdowns in the offensive line led to three sacks of quarterback Tanner Barr in the first half.
Poor protection for Barr forced the Sailors to revert to their ground game, which has actually been a strength for them.
Led by senior running back Joey Marias, the Sailors are averaging 275 rushing yards per game.
The defense also has been solid, allowing 8.3 points per contest.
Still, the attention in the Steamboat locker room has been on the number of errors committed.
"We are going to improve for next week," Drake said. "We must improve to compete in the league."
Unlike last week's game against Salida when Barr unleashed for 103 yards passing, the combination of Barr and Joel Adams finished the Highland game with just 18 yards through the air.
Marias, however, came up big for the Sailors, pounding out 153 yards to score three touchdowns.
He found the end zone first on a 32-yard run down the left side in the second quarter.
Marias' run came shortly after Jeff Franks recovered a fumble. The Huskies' Curtis Martinez lost the ball on a punt return to give the Sailors excellent field position at the 32-yard line.
Marias' other scores came on eight and 10-yard carries in the second half.
On the Sailors' first drive, Marias pushed his way through the line of scrimmage to put the team at the 8-yard line.
But after his run, an incomplete pass to tight end Gaspar Perricone in the end zone, followed by a false start and then a three-yard loss, pushed the team back to the 22-yard line on fourth down.
Franks got the Sailors on the board by nailing the field goal.
The Sailors defense almost held off the Huskies for its first shutout of the season, but in the dwindling seconds of the game, the Huskies recovered a loose ball on a Sailors punt return.
The turnover led to a 39-yard touchdown strike from Huskies quarterback Jason Martinez to Keno Gaona.
Perricone and Wes Adams led the Sailors defense, teaming up for 21 tackles.
Before the game, Huskies coach Tom Bergstrom called his offense well-balanced. But, the Sailors allowed only 47 passing yards.
"Steamboat doesn't allow you to throw the ball down the field," Bergstrom said.
For their first home game, Perricone and Marias agreed the Sailors lacked the intensity of previous games.
"We had no intensity, we should have been crazy," Marias said. "To go into league play we have got to have that there."