Steamboat ready for Battle

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— As a man who loves football and the kids he works with, Steamboat Springs football coach Mark Drake's heart aches for the Battle Mountain program.

Low numbers caused the Huskies to drop out of the 3A Western Slope league and take on an independent schedule for this season and the next. Fred Koetteritz has been with the program for six years, but this is his first as head coach, and he said it was a decision that had to be made.

If he could do it over again, he said Battle Mountain would have played JV teams instead of a mixture of varsity opponents, because 3A teams like Glenwood Springs, Delta and Steamboat tonight's opponent are still on the schedule, and it isn't doing his team much good.

"In hindsight, maybe playing a JV schedule would help in seeing where we are," Koetteritz said. "But we thought we wanted to keep some of the upperclassmen here and give them something to play for."

It turns out it didn't matter. Injuries and a series of academic and team violations have taken many of the older players off the roster. Others simply quit, leaving Koetteritz and his staff with essentially a JV squad playing varsity teams.

"Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better," Koetteritz said. "The kids we still have left are very dedicated and work hard. They're young so when they go up against strong varsity teams loaded with seniors and juniors, it's tough. Even with the independent schedule it's been tough."

Smaller schools like Sanford, 1A, and Valley,2A, combined to outscore Battle Mountain 138-0 in two recent games.

"I don't want to do what Sanford did," Drake said.

It's undeniable that Steamboat is superior to Battle Mountain on the football field. Drake said he and his staff's biggest task this week has been maintaining some focus because everyone is aware they will be playing freshmen and sophomores.

"The only thing we have to hold over their heads is that there's still a possibility (we can make the playoffs)," Drake said.

Steamboat, 5-4 overall, must beat Battle Mountain, 1-7, to have any shot at the one wild-card bid. It will also need some help from other teams around the state, but it is a possibility.

"They do realize we still have a chance," Drake said. "But we can't control it."

Drake said practices have been more fun and he hopes to reward all those players out for the 2002 season with some playing time. Every senior able to play today will start, whether it's on offense or defense.

From there, Drake hopes the starters can help Steamboat pull away, enabling those coming back next year to get some action as one unit in the positions Drake believes they will play next season.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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