Sailors look to gain experience

Loss of 17 seniors has left Steamboat shorthanded

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— Steamboat football players Will Zimmerer, Joel Adams and Patrick Rogers stink.

Since two-a-days started on Aug. 12, the three seniors have muddied up their white practice jerseys to the point of no return. Adams and Rogers have washed their uniforms once. Zimmerer hasn't even bothered to clean his at all.

"I love two-a-days," Zimmerer said with a smile. "They fly by. Summer work went so slow so these two hours go fast."

Zimmerer is unique. Coach Mark Drake is entering his 27th season at Steamboat and hasn't seen many players take a liking to two-a-days, no matter the love of the sport.

"Most players have to look at it as the toughest part of the game," Drake said. "They need to get through two-a-days and look forward to Friday nights."

All attention is geared toward Friday when the Sailors open the 2002 season against Sierra at home. The loss of 17 seniors has left Steamboat short on experience, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines where a game can essentially be won or lost. Drake, however, said he likes the players he has. They just need reps in live games.

"Attitude plays a big part," Drake said. "That and the will to win."

This year, the Sailors selected TEAM Together Everyone Achieves More as their motto. Knowing they will struggle at times while experience is gained and lessons are learned, it will truly take a team effort for Steamboat to achieve its goals.

Adams, the starting quarterback, said he would like to win the Western Slope League title this season after finishing second last year. He and his senior teammates realize this season is a little different than in years past, not to mention the hardest to prepare for mentally, because it's the final one.

"It's tough to get through my mind," Zimmerer said. "With all the other years when the coaches talk, it's almost been like they were talking just to the seniors. Now we have to expect the seniors to step up."

One senior eager to get back on the field is Rogers. Forced to sit out most of last season with an injury, the fullback wants the ball. Judging by Steamboat's scrimmages Saturday against West Grand and Middle Park, he will get it.

"He's a powerhouse running back up the middle," Zimmerer said. "He's the easiest person to block for."

Drake said Rogers is the key to Steamboat's offense. Opponents must respect the run, which opens up the playbook for the rest of the offense. Adams' ability to mix it up in the air and on the ground, combined with the speed out of the remaining backfield players, leaves the Sailors with a variety of offensive options.

On Saturday they utilized the scrimmage by testing out their air and ground attack. Steamboat has big play potential when the blocks are there. A little undersized this season, Zimmerer said the Sailors would look to their speed for help.

"We have the potential," Adams said.

"We have to have people step up that need to step up," Zimmerer added.

Bitten by the injury bug early, a handful of players expected to contribute have been forced to the sideline in the all-important preseason workouts, leaving Steamboat unable to get a real feel for how everything will fit together.

But league coaches point to Steamboat's tradition as reason enough to believe the Sailors will be in contention for one of the top three spots, if not the top spot, in the Western Slope again this fall.

"In our league, certain teams seem to do well," Rifle coach Darrel Gorham said. "Steamboat is one of those teams."

Drake and his assistant coaches had the intensity level maxed out Wednesday, yelling compliments and displeasures at high volume, as the Sailors make final preparations for the season opener in less than a week.

"We've gotten more plays in and are farther along than in the past," Drake said on Wednesday. "Do we have it down pat and mistake free? Not yet."

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