Sailors hoping for a repeat

Steamboat won 35-34 thriller over Sierra in '02

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The size and inexperience of his offensive line and a lack of overall team depth are Sierra football coach Kevin Gray's concerns heading into Saturday's season opener against Steamboat Springs.

They sound a little like the words coming from the mouth of Sailors coach Mark Drake.

The two teams share similar weaknesses, but also possess similar strengths in areas such as team speed and skill-position talent, making the 1 p.m. Saturday game at Harrison High School as intriguing a match-up as the 2002 game, which the Sailors won 35-34.

The game will be played midday because Harrison High School and Sierra High School share a football facility in Colorado Springs and Harrison had first call on game time. Harrison elected to play Rifle tonight, so Sierra and Steamboat will play Saturday afternoon.

Sierra hasn't taken part in playoff action since 1998, one year before Gray took over the program. Steamboat missed out on the postseason last year, finishing fourth in the Western Slope at 6-4 behind Rifle, Palisade and Moffat County.

In an effort to improve chemistry, morale and results, Gray overhauled his coaching staff, bringing back the former head coach and two former Stallions players to assist him.

"What we want to do is create winners," Gray said. "That's the biggest thing that has happened. We are really young and only have four returning starters. We don't have a lot of depth, but we are really excited. There has been an attitude change."

Last year, the Stallions finished 2-8 playing in the 3A Southern League. This year may be the final year Sierra spends in 3A. Enrollment is back up, and the Stallions will likely rejoin Class 4A soon, Gray said. Steamboat, on the other hand, remains one of the smaller 3A schools in the state, particularly in its league, but as Drake embarks on his 30th year as head coach, he has again found reasons to be excited about the 2003 team.

"I think they are a really good, competitive bunch," Drake said. "If they remain focused, and don't get too stressed out and worried and put us in the best situation, I think we'll be fine."

Sierra welcomes back quarterback Christian Bullard, a senior, who broke his collarbone in the fourth game last season. Unfortunately for the Stallions, senior fullback James Fields will not be able to play Saturday after separating a shoulder during a scrimmage, Gray said.

Last year, Fields ran for 104 yards -- 94 in the second half -- against Steamboat.

Offensively, Steamboat will feature senior David May at quarterback, senior receivers Chris Dombey and Lonny Radford and senior back Shea Hurley.

Defensively, junior Chris Baumann will look to lead Steamboat's defensive line in a rush toward Bullard and Sierra's backfield.

"During the (Aug. 23) scrimmage, we saw some things we really like and think we'll be good at," Drake said. "Areas that we thought we were weak, we were, and we are trying to bring those inexperienced ballplayers along as fast as we can."


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

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