Ramunno vs. Drake: A series renewed

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— John Ramunno has turned into a Devil, but as a former Sailor, he hasn't totally jumped ship.

The current Eagle Valley coach, Ramunno was born and raised in Steamboat Springs. He played and student-taught under current Sailors football coach Mark Drake. The year Ramunno worked alongside Drake as a teacher, Steamboat went on to win the 1979 state football title.

"We were just in awe of him," Ramunno said of his earliest memories of Drake. "We looked to him as a role model."

The respect is still there, but tonight Ramunno is counting on his kids to deliver a much-desired victory as the Sailors (1-0) travel to Gypsum to take on Eagle Valley (1-0) in a 7 p.m. game at Hot Stuff Stadium.

"I told them I want them to give their best effort and don't embarrass me," Ramunno said with a laugh.

Drake said the Sailors have been trying to get the Devils on the schedule for the past several years, attempting to renew a series that has been evenly played and hotly contested.

"He always runs a very good program," Drake said of Ramunno. "We win some. They win some. They have a lot of kids out this year. They've got some good size and a winning tradition. I think it will be a tougher game than last week's."

Drake's players are expecting the same thing. After gaining the No. 8 spot in the Class 3A rankings following their 35-34 victory against Sierra, it was back to work this past week in practice.

Senior Preston Stanfill said film review revealed the Sailors made plenty of first-game mistakes.

"We definitely have a small ego," Stanfill said. "We were happy with the win, but we watched game film and realized we were lucky."

Drake wants the same effort his players gave in their home-opener tonight against Eagle Valley. He just expects better execution. It's been written that a team makes its largest strides between the first and second game after running and defending plays against an opponent.

"Hopefully that will be the case," Drake said.

Ramunno admits he has some ideas about what Drake likes to feature having been a former Sailor, but the Eagle Valley coach said the established success of Steamboat has a lot to do with his coaching adaptations and unpredictability.

"If he doesn't have an answer, he'll go find it," Ramunno said. "He makes a lot of calls. You just always have to be ready because he has a couple trick plays he runs that make you look stupid."

Ramunno's mother, Marilyn, an avid football fan, lives near Drake in Steamboat, and Ramunno joked about sending her up to practice to get a peek at what might be coming tonight.

Marilyn Ramunno would have had a late night as Steamboat spent Thursday's practice walking through plays under the lights.

Drake has told his players to expect a more disciplined, better-coached team tonight than what they faced last week. Eagle Valley is coming off a 58-14 trouncing of Battle Mountain on Aug. 30.

Ramunno said his team features a talented quarterback in Justin Wood. Last year he led the Devils to an 8-2 record and threw for roughly 1,000 yards. Eagle Valley also features two experienced wingbacks with big play potential and two junior fullbacks that like to run behind a senior-laden offensive line.

"We aren't at our peak yet and our kids will get better," Ramunno said. "I'm sure excited. We have some pretty good kids now, and I'm hoping we can hang in there with them. We'd like to use this game to see if we can compete against a good team."

The respect goes both ways. The Sailors know walking out onto the field as a larger school in no way guarantees a victory, especially on the road. Junior Chris Dombey said no one on Steamboat's roster has a large head after the victory against Sierra.

"Our helmets fit just fine," he said.

"We're smart enough to know that was last week," Cory Moore said. "We need to stay focused. We all know what we have to do."

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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