Steamboat Springs A decade's worth of Steamboat football players looked on from the Gardner Field stands Friday night as the 2001 Sailors accomplished something the former players were never able to do: They upset the Palisade Bulldogs, who have been the Sailors' nemesis for the past 10 years.
"Sometimes, when a team has dominated so much over the last 10 years, a team becomes intimidated to beat them," Sailors coach Mark Drake said.
"I am just so happy for the kids. They work so hard; it would have been a shame for them not to win the ball game."
Steamboat, which improved to 2-0 in the league and 5-0 overall, was even at 19 with Palisade with about two minutes left on the game clock when Joey Marias busted free for a 48-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner.
The Sailors' 26-19 upset of the No. 4-ranked team in the state 3A class was one of the best homecoming games at Gardner Field, Drake said.
Marias, a senior, took a handoff from quarterback Tanner Barr and cut through the Sailors' line, outrunning the last Bulldogs defender at about the 30-yard line before finally crossing the goal line.
"It was one of the biggest goals to beat Palisade this season," Marias said. "I can't describe how I feel yet," he said while his teammates celebrated their victory over the 1-1 and 4-1 Bulldogs.
After a shaky performance in the first three quarters by Barr, the senior took the game into his own hands on the final defensive series.
Barr, who was sacked for a safety in the third and lost a crucial fumble at the Bulldogs' 5-yard line in the second, made a big-time play on the defensive end to secure the Sailors' victory.
Barr stepped in front of a Josh Roseberry to Jesse Campos pass deep into Sailors territory, leaping up and fully extending to haul in an interception at around the 1:50 mark.
From there, the Sailors were able to chew up the rest of the clock and pull off the huge upset.
Coming off the field, Sailors wiped away tears after their fourth-quarter heroics had led them past the heavily favored Bulldogs.
Steamboat outgained the Bulldogs 405 to 341 in total yards on Friday, rushing for 367.
Barr, Marias and fullback Pat McMahon each went over the 100-yard mark for the night.
Two costly turnovers, missed extra points and the safety against Steamboat had the Sailors down 16-12 heading into the fourth quarter.
But it was Marias who added the fourth-quarter spark when he broke through the line to take the ball into the end zone on a 60-yard run at the 10:15- mark that put the Sailors ahead 19-16.
For the next seven minutes, the Bulldogs moved the ball downfield. At the Sailors' 12-yard line, Gaspar Perricone stopped the Bulldogs' Travis Bounds short of a first down, forcing them to settle for a field goal that tied the game at 19 with just 2:29 left on the clock.
On the kick return, Cory Beck brought the ball up to the Sailors' 38-yard line. Barr then quickly moved the team to the Palisade 48-yard line before Marias scored the game's final touchdown.
The Sailors' defense rose to the occasion on Friday, holding the Bulldogs to just a field goal after the first quarter. Palisade led at the half, 14-12.
"We held them in the second half," Sailors offensive and defensive lineman Mike Radford said.
"By the second quarter, we adjusted to their offensive and were able to shut them down."
With the win, the Sailors are now sharing first place in the Western Slope League with the Rifle Bears, whom they will meet at home Oct. 26.
Rifle also stated its case as being the No. 1 team in the league Friday night as it defeated Moffat County 39-14 in Craig.
The Bears jumped out to a 20-0 lead on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Whittington to Jason Enewold, followed by a run by Whittington for the two-point conversion.
The Bears' first score came on a Whittington 6-yard run.
Moffat County, which did not score until the fourth quarter on a Ryan Linsacum 1-yard run, lost one of its top backs for an indefinite amount of time on Friday. Chris Fields, who plays tailback, took a shot from a Bears defender after catching a swing pass in the flats that knocked him out of the game in the third quarter.
Fields left the game with a severely injured knee.
Steamboat and Moffat County will meet in Craig Oct. 12. But the Sailors first will travel to Battle Mountain on Friday to take on the Huskies.