Steamboat prepares for Tri-Valley's Sterling

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The Colorado High School Activities Association won't release official playoff pairings until mid-day today, but Steamboat Springs most likely will be hosting Sterling to open the 2003 postseason.

The Sailors (9-1) are ranked fourth in the state in Class 3A and enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed from the Western Slope. Palisade, which beat Steamboat earlier in the season, won the Western Slope League with its 20-15 victory over Moffat County on Friday night.

Sterling (5-5) is the No. 3 seed from the Tri-Valley league.

Though a time has not been set, CHSAA's bracket indicates all first-round playoff games will be played on Saturday.

As the league's top seed, Palisade (9-1) will host the state wild card. The wild card team has not been officially determined, but Rifle (7-3) is thought to have the inside track. The Bears handed Palisade its only loss of the season.

The wild card is on a rotation among the four Class 3A leagues, and this year was the Western Slope's turn to host the wild card, CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said. It is a coincidence that the wild card team -- Rifle -- likely will come from the Western Slope team, as well.

Two league losses to close the regular season cost Moffat County (7-3) a league title and the chance to host a playoff game. Moffat is the No. 3 seed from the Western Slope and travels to Berthoud (6-4), the second seed from the Tri-Valley.

Steamboat defeated Berthoud, 20-7, earlier this season.

Berthoud ended up finishing second in the Tri-Valley by virtue of a tiebreaker. Berthoud, Sterling and Windsor all finished 5-2 in league play and ended up 1-1 against each other, forcing the teams to turn to the league's tiebreaker rule to determine playoff teams.

The Tri-Valley uses the tiebreaker the state has on file, in which tied teams are first looked at by record against the league champion. All three fell to Mountain View.

Next, the teams turned to wild-card points. Berthoud took second based on the points, but Windsor and Sterling were still tied in wild-card points. To break that tie, the winner of the Sterling and Windsor game took the third and final automatic spot.

Sterling won 34-7 on Sept. 19.

Palisade defeated Sterling 45-28 on Sept. 12.

Sailors coach Mark Drake and the Steamboat players offered no preference as to their first-round opponent.

Had Palisade lost, it would have been the state's wild card, and Steamboat would have hosted Palisade instead. The Sailors hope to have the chance to face the Bulldogs again to avenge their only loss this season.

In Sterling, Steamboat will get an opponent unfamiliar with its intricate offense. Adding to the challenge for the Tigers is their five-hour drive.

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