Sailors stomp Sierra, 35-20

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Imagine what Lonny Radford might pull for an encore after scoring two touchdowns and intercepting one pass in his first varsity game in nearly a year, as Steamboat Springs defeated Sierra 35-20 Saturday.

Radford saw minimal varsity action as a sophomore. As a junior, he earned a starting safety spot before shin splints sidelined him early, and a stress fracture ultimately ended his season just three games in.

Saturday, the Sailors utilized Radford's versatility on offense, defense and special teams in an impressive season-opening victory in Colorado Springs.

Radford had 111 yards on offense to go with two touchdowns. Defensively, he resumed his role in the Sailors' defensive backfield, hauling in one of Steamboat's two interceptions in a match-up against Stallions quarterback Christian Bullard.

"He's definitely an impact player," Sailors coach Mark Drake said of Radford.

This year's senior class has talked about the team's change in attitude and chemistry, which the players believe will translate into a more successful season after missing the playoffs in 2002.

The Sailors are not in playoff form after just one game, but they showed promise with a new, more explosive offense and an intense defensive unit quick to the ball.

Drake said his players needed to get into game shape so they can execute every play effectively.

One area of concern, the Sailors coach said, is special teams, where a bad snap/fumble and an 80-yard kickoff return resulted in 14 of the Stallions 20 points Saturday. Drake said the special teams' performance is an area Steamboat traditionally takes pride in executing. While it is hard to simulate game scenarios in practice, Drake expects tackles and assignments to be performed correctly on special teams and plans to address those concerns before Friday's home opener against Eagle Valley.

Offensively, junior quarterback David May played well, throwing for 122 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Perhaps the biggest play of Saturday's game came on a fourth-and-30 in the final quarter. Instead of pooch punting and trying to pin Sierra deep in its zone, May hung in the pocket and found Radford on a post route for what proved to be the game-sealing 30-yard touchdown with 10:23 left in the fourth.

"We're a big play team," Radford said.

Sierra pulled to within 28-20 on Bullard's 12-yard pass to Bernard Melvin with 5:27 left in the game. The Sailors picked up several key first downs on their subsequent possession, but the Stallions forced the visiting team to punt with less than two minutes to go.

On second-and-10, with 46 seconds left, Sierra's Bullard dropped back in the pocket and threw a perfect spiral right into the hands of Steamboat's Chris Dombey who returned the interception 20 yards for the final touchdown.

Defensively, Steamboat surrendered 216 yards in total offense: 172 yards on the ground and only 44 yards in the air. The unit also forced three turnovers.

"We knew what we had to do," junior Chris Baumann said. "It will be like that the rest of the season."

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

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