Steamboat Springs Pat McMahon's bloodshot, teary eyes spoke for the Steamboat Springs football team. There was no celebration following a 49-6 rout over Berthoud Saturday at Gardner Field. Instead, McMahon and his teammates emerged from the locker room one by one, visibly devastated over the loss of senior Joel Adams to an unspecified knee injury one that could possibly end the starting quarterback's season and career as a Sailor.
Adams will have an MRI today, coach Mark Drake said. The injury came on a third-quarter sack that sent Adams to the grass in pain and Steamboat's sidelines into shock.
"We're like brothers," McMahon said, still choking back tears. "That totally spoiled the victory. Watching Joel lay on the field screaming and watching the other team celebrate will haunt me for the rest of the season."
The decision to leave Adams and the rest of the first string in with the score 42-0 in favor of Steamboat may haunt Drake as well. While the team has confidence in backup quarterback David May, particularly his athletic ability and competitive fire he's also a linebacker Adams provides a polish and passing dimension that had the Sailors offense smoking on Saturday.
In coaching, however, there are no second guesses or second guessers and Drake said he told his players at halftime that the starters were going to play a couple of series in the third quarter before being pulled.
Forced to punt on the first two possessions of the third quarter, Steamboat stalled on offense, and Drake sent his starters back out for a third series to produce. It proved one too many.
Near the end of the third, on a second-and-four, Adams dropped back to pass. A Berthoud lineman caught Adams in the backfield and threw him down. Adams' knees, particularly his left, which has given him trouble in the past, bent awkwardly under the larger lineman.
"A cloud came over on one play," Drake said, clearly concerned about his young player.
Steamboat scored shortly after Adams went to the sidelines. In fact, as Adams was being carted off to the locker room by teammates Wayne Cluster and Zach Forcum, McMahon dove across the end zone on a 5-yard run with 10:12 to go in the fourth quarter.
"That was for Joel," McMahon said.
Should Saturday's win be Adams' last at Steamboat, he can be proud of how he and his team played. Adams threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns on eight completions to six different receivers. His first touchdown pass at the 6:51-mark in the first quarter was prototypical Adams.
Standing in the pocket, Adams knew he was going to take a hit, and he released the ball right as the Berthoud linemen reached him. Adams' spiral found Jeff Franks in stride over the middle, and the senior receiver two-stepped into the end zone.
Drake sought perfection from his team. For one half of football, he had it. The defense held the Spartans to 67 first-half yards while forcing a turnover and intercepting a pass courtesy of Lonny Radford.
The offense, meanwhile, racked up 338 yards on offense behind Adams' arm and McMahon's legs. The senior running back tallied 151 yards on nine carries, along with three touchdowns en route to a 241-yard, four-touchdown afternoon.
"(McMahon) lined up and did what we talk about," Drake said. "We want everyone to give everything every down. Overall it was a great team effort. They did an outstanding job. You couldn't ask for anything more."
Except for maybe one down back. But replays are shown only on big screens, not on the football field.
Steamboat will have to continue without Adams. Just this week, Adams said he felt the team had really come together as a unit after a tough 28-20 loss at Eagle Valley. He appeared to be right on Saturday, but now the Sailors will have to press on with May and backup Preston Stanfill. League opponent Montezuma-Cortez is next on the schedule.
Each is ready to go, he has said.
"I have all the faith in the world in David," McMahon said.
And if people thought McMahon played hard Saturday, wait for the rest of the season. He is now playing for two.
"Coach came up to me after the game and said now I have to play for myself and for Joel," McMahon said.