Steamboat Springs Without hesitation, Steamboat went for the win.
Down 14-13, Sailors coach Mark Drake opted to go for two points and the win instead of the extra point and the tie in overtime against Moffat County Friday night at Gardner Field.
And it was there, Drake said. Assistant coach Andy Reust told Drake it would have worked.
"They were expecting us to kick," Drake said.
But senior Jeff Franks saw Danny Torgerson coming early, and he almost called the two-point play off to kick the extra point, but he knew it wasn't his decision. All he and the rest of the Steamboat team could do was watch as the attempt failed, and the Bulldogs players, coaches and fans spilled onto the field, celebrating Moffat County's first playoff berth since 1999.
Steamboat, meanwhile, will finish fourth in the league at 3-3 and hang its hopes on a wild-card invitation pending the final week of the season and the finishes from other 3A leagues.
"I didn't think it would come to this," Franks said. "That's not what we're hoping for. We don't want to be a wild card."
Franks, a relative newcomer to the game of football, ached for his senior teammates that have given their hearts and bodies to the game since middle school. Zach Forcum, who was supposed to carry the ball across the goal line on the two-point attempt, couldn't leave the field.
He sat on the bench even after the lights were turned off Friday night. He would have stayed but a coach came and made him go. After the game, senior linemen Will Zimmerer and Wayne Cluster walked to the far end zone the one away from where Steamboat lost and sat down in disbelief and disappointment.
Drake remembers his last home game, and he aches for what happened to his seniors and the entire team Friday night.
"You have to be in their shoes to know what it feels like," Drake said. "It's a heartbreaker."
What Drake said hurt the worst was the way in which Steamboat lost. In overtime, a team starts from the 10-yard line and has four downs to score, be it a touchdown or field goal. The second team is given a chance to respond until one comes up ahead.
The Sailors thought they held the Bulldogs scoreless. The officials thought otherwise.
On fourth-and-one, senior Eric Bastow was met by a host of Sailor interior linemen and middle linebackers. Steamboat celebrated a stop because there was no signal. The officials ran in, held a conference above the goal line, looked at each other, and then signaled a touchdown. Jason Mosher's extra point was good.
"That's the unfortunate part," Drake said. "The game was decided by an official's call."
Senior Patrick Rogers scored a touchdown in overtime to pull the Sailors to within one, but the failed attempt resulted in the 14-13 final.
"It's horrible," Franks said. "It's Moffat County. We hate them."
And the rivalry between the schools made for a playoff atmosphere Friday night. Both defenses certainly showed up ready to play. The offenses for either team, however, were inconsistent, turnover prone and ineffective for almost the entire evening.
For three quarters, the Bulldogs seemed to do everything to give the Sailors the game. They turned the ball over four times. Steamboat didn't capitalize once. The Sailors lone score before overtime came at the 4:43-mark in the first quarter off Rogers' bruising 11-yard run. The 56-yard drive accounted for half of Steamboat's entire offensive output and produced the only two first downs of the game for the Sailors.
"I was disappointed in our ability to move the football," Drake said.
Meanwhile, the defense kept Steamboat ahead until the 8:55-mark in the fourth quarter when Moffat County quarterback Aaron Sanchez found Jason Collins in the end zone on a 21-yard scoring strike. Mosher's kick tied the game at seven where it stayed until overtime.
Both Drake and Forcum credited the Bulldogs defensive line and interior linebackers for stuffing the run, forcing quarterback Joel Adams and the receivers to carry the offensive load. In most instances, the Sailors relish the chance to beat opponents via the air.
Friday, it didn't work out, much to the Bulldogs playoff delights.
"I think they were stunned at how hard we came at them," Moffat County defensive back Kelvin Grinolds said. "Our defensive unity was unbelievable tonight."