The game must go on

Sailors struggle with loss of senior quarterback to injury

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— A quarterback carousel is not what coach Mark Drake wants, but both David May and Preston Stanfill are expected to see action today as Steamboat searches for a replacement for Joel Adams.

Adams suffered an MCL tear in his left knee after being sacked awkwardly in the third quarter of the Sailors' 49-6 win over Berthoud Sept. 14.

Drake said doctors expect Adams to be sidelined for up to six weeks, meaning the senior could possibly return to the football team for the playoffs should he opt to do so.

Adams is also an accomplished skier.

While the coaches and players on Steamboat's team remain concerned for Adams, everyone realizes the season continues. The Sailors (2-1) open league play tonight against Montezuma-Cortez (1-2) at 7 p.m. at Panther Field, and how well Stanfill, a senior, and May, a junior, adjust to their new position will play a role in the Sailors' success.

"They both enjoy playing the game," Drake said. "They love competition. I wouldn't be afraid to send either in right now."

May, a starting linebacker, has been removed from defense. Senior Cooper Howard will replace him. Stanfill, a part-time tight end and guard, is now No. 14.

"I am a little more nervous," Stanfill said. "It's not really bad. I'm ready. We spent Monday and Tuesday's practices on nothing but offense."

The quarterbacks and running backs came in earlier to work even more. With the loss of Adams, the status of the passing game remains up in the air. Steamboat relied on its passing game or the threat of it to open up its running game. Drake said neither May nor Stanfill possess the polish and accuracy of Adams at this point, but both have undeniably strong arms.

"The secondary had to make sure they stayed back because we did have that threat of a throwing game," Drake said. "I still feel we will have a threat because we have great receivers. If nothing else, we can turn and hand the ball off, and we've got some excellent running backs and our line is blocking well."

The expected return of lineman Wayne Cluster and running back Zach Forcum in limited roles should help Steamboat further.

But May and Stanfill aren't exactly stepping into unfamiliar territory. Stanfill served as Steamboat's quarterback through his sophomore year before Adams emerged as the No. 1 signal caller. May was Adams' original backup and the likely candidate to fill the spot next season.

"They have been working hard this week so far," Drake said. "David has the most experience, but we are giving Preston equal time, and we'll go with the person that can handle the duties and direct the team."

The members of Steamboat's defense would like to take some of the pressure off its offense. Sophomore Chris Baumann is quickly becoming a pleasant surprise after recording seven solo tackles, including two sacks, in his first start against Berthoud.

"You don't have to know as many plays and you can just hit someone," he said on why he prefers defense instead of offense.

That's the type of attitude senior Daniel Brenner said the entire defense plans to bring to the field today.

It's Homecoming in Cortez. Brenner doesn't care.

"We're going to keep doing what we did well last week," Brenner said. "We plan to crash their Homecoming party."

Coach Tom Adair is in his first year with the Panthers and he's excited about the direction his program is going. But he doesn't deny it has a ways to go.

"The biggest difference between young players going against seniors is strength," Adair said. "We've got to get stronger."

Cortez has been outscored 95-25 this season. Its lone win came against Dolores, 17-10. Adair said he expects the hoopla that surrounds Homecoming to generate excitement in his young football team.

Drake hopes the two-day trip to Cortez serves as ample time to prepare for the game rather than a distraction before it. The Sailors left Thursday and will return Saturday.

Stanfill and Brenner plan to review the game plans on the bus. Baumann said he was going to bring his laptop to watch DVDs. Chances are a senior will confiscate the sophomore's computer and hand him a playbook.

Steamboat still plans to make the postseason no matter who's behind center, and the road to the playoffs begins tonight.

"We are trying to be as confident with these kids as we can," Drake said. "We talked to the team about how they have to be supportive of whoever is quarterbacking. They are getting thrown to the wolves right away."

Actually, May and Stanfill aren't getting thrown to the Panthers, but both were ready to play last week. Nothing's changed.

"I want the team to succeed," Stanfill said. "I'll be anxious to get in there."

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