Steamboat Springs Fear will not be a factor tonight.
Steamboat Springs quarterback Joel Adams believes teams have allowed Rifle's undefeated record and No. 1 ranking in Class 3A to determine the outcome before the opening kickoff darts through the crisp, fall air.
The Sailors don't plan to join that group.
"We're definitely not scared of Rifle," junior Charles Breland said.
Breland said the Sailors (5-2 overall, 3-1 in the league) are capable of handing the Bears (7-0, 3-0) their first defeat of the season in tonight's game at Bears Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Sailors' confidence stems from success during a stretch of the year where it would have been easy to fold. Injuries to Adams and running back Pat McMahon, both starters, left their status uncertain for the remainder of the season and the offense's identity up in the air. Bumps and bruises left other players at less than full strength.
Still, behind a collective effort from the special teams, defense and offense, Steamboat emerged 3-1 in league playing heading into tonight's matchup against Rifle.
"We like to concentrate on who we're playing that week, but it's been in the back of our minds," Breland said. "For me personally, I couldn't wait to play them. We have high expectations for this game."
Breland is excited because its just his second game of the season. After sitting out the first half of the schedule, the running back/linebacker is back and hopes to provide even more of a spark, to the defense in particular.
Adams and McMahon will join him on the sideline. Both have run pain free this week. Adams said his knee feels fine. McMahon said the same of his ankle.
"I'm fresh off three weeks' rest," McMahon said with a smile. "It will bother me the rest of the season, but it's playable."
While both very much want to get on the field, neither will start. Coach Mark Drake said he isn't sure when or if the two will get in this week.
The top-ranked Bears are powerful and strong. The chance to have both healthy for the rest of the season is more appealing than rushing either back to play tonight.
Plus the reserves, particularly quarterback David May, have played well in their absence.
"David's doing a good job," Adams said.
While McMahon was sidelined, seniors Zach Forcum and Patrick Rogers have picked up the majority of his carries. Forcum, injured for the first three games of the season, has amassed 493 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns through four games.
Rogers, a fullback, has become the go-to guy in short yardage situations. His runs in the late going against Delta helped Steamboat take the lead and hold on for the 19-18 win.
The possibility of getting Adams and McMahon back, however, only helps the offense, which McMahon said hasn't maximized its full potential yet. It has Rifle coach Darrel Gorham curious.
He has asked on the status of both, but he's just as concerned with the other players on the roster as well.
"They are a very well-coached team," Gorham said. "They have some really good athletes. It's going to be a really good test for us. They've got some speed kids I'm worried about."
What also troubles Gorham is the layoff from both school and competitive play his kids have endured at this critical point in the season. Rifle is on fall break and spent last week resting because of an open date after Battle Mountain left the league this season.
"I don't know if the break will help or hurt us because we've never been in this situation before," Gorham said.
He said both the Bears and the Sailors have served as their own worst enemies. Gorham acknowledged his team has been lackluster with the football, turning it over as many as eight times in one game earlier this season a 21-10 win over Moffat County.
"We haven't put four quarters together, but the kids keep finding a way to win," Gorham said.
Both Drake and Gorham said it was imperative for their teams to take care of the football and avoid costly penalties. Drake felt that would determine the winner. Gorham said it would provide more opportunities to score, not necessarily win.
After all, the Bears have grown accustomed to overcoming mistakes. Their record proves it. Rifle also has one other trend in its favor.
"I don't even know the last time we lost to Steamboat," Gorham said.