Mark Drake is tired of imperfection.
At the beginning of the week, the Steamboat coach delivered a speech that quarterback Joel Adams said smacked him and his senior teammates upside the head.
"He said, 'We have seven weeks left, and then it's over if we don't step it up,'" Adams repeated. "That opened our eyes."
Drake reiterated his desire for flawless football by dedicating the end of Thursday's practice to practicing perfection.
Horizontally from the 20-yard line, the first string had to run 10 flawless plays. Horizontally from the 40-yard line, the second string had to do the same.
The first string came close, but Steamboat's players realize the difference between close and perfect is an interception or perhaps a quarterback sack.
Through the first two weeks, Adams has spent nearly as much time on his back as on his feet. The offensive line is sick of surrendering sacks. Adams literally has been sick from being sacked but he failed to report the concussion to coaches after sustaining it in the season-opening win against Sierra.
Drake said his quarterback doesn't remember much from the fourth quarter in last weekend's loss at Eagle Valley. Bouts of dizziness, nosebleeds and headaches prompted Drake to send Adams to the hospital. The headaches have subsided, and the CAT scan came back negative, clearing Adams to play, though he's spent a majority of practice time on the sidelines.
"This week in the halls everyone was joking saying, 'Oh, are you all right?'" Adams said.
Adams said he is, but he noticed a change in the team's attitude as it watched players go down with injuries and in defeat in Gypsum.
"The loss and the way we played has helped us come together as a team," Adams said. "We realized we need everyone to win, not just several players."
Junior David May is Adams' backup, while senior Preston Stanfill has started taking reps behind center as well. Stanfill served as quarterback from junior high through his sophomore year before he became a better fit for the team at tight end.
Both May and Stanfill said they are healthy and comfortable being called upon to quarterback should the need arise. But Stanfill, usually a blocker out of the tight end position, said regardless of who is taking the snaps, opposing defenses can't seep into the backfield with regularity anymore.
"It's been like that all year," he said. "The QB can't keep taking hits."
Kickoff for today's game between Steamboat and Berthoud is at 3:30 p.m. at Gardner Field. The JV teams for each school will square off at 11:30 a.m.
With Adams behind center, Steamboat, 2-0 overall, will be able to feature both the run and pass.
Berthoud coach Dan McGinn said his team hopes to play sound fundamental football, establishing the run but opening up the passing game more than in its previous two defeats a 47-0 loss to 2A power Eaton and a 16-13 loss to Mesa Ridge.
McGinn said his team played much better against Mesa Ridge but couldn't get its hands on the football much in the second half, as the Grizzlies chewed up large chunks of time with long drives.
"We had a real good week of practice," McGinn said. "Despite our woes our kids are working real hard."
McGinn, a frequent visitor to Steamboat, is excited to bring the Spartans to this "mountain-esque" town. He estimates half of his team hasn't been here before, and he told them to enjoy the experience.
"But obviously we're coming to play a football game," he said.
In their final non-league game, the Sailors must prove to themselves they are better than what they showed at Eagle Valley, Stanfill said.
Everyone knows what Drake wants.
"We're trying to get to the point where we can play a complete game and eliminate mistakes," he said. "From here on out it gets a little tougher and tougher. We have to gear ourselves accordingly."