After stunning No. 2 seed D'Evelyn in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Saturday, the Steamboat Springs High School football team must now prepare for its first away game of the playoffs.
The Sailors will travel more than 250 miles to face the defending state champions and seventh-seeded Florence Huskies at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"You know you're only one win away from playing for a state title, and I think that in itself is a big motivation factor," coach Mark Drake said about getting his team ready for its first road game since defeating Battle Mountain on Oct. 31.
Saturday's game is the Sailors first state semifinals appearance since 1990, and Drake expects his team to be prepared.
"It's just an awesome bunch of kids," he said. "They play with a great deal of heart."
The winner of Saturday's game earns a berth into the state championship to play the winner of the other semifinal game between No. 1 Mountain View and No. 3 Palisade. The Sailors (11-1) lone loss this season came at the hands of Palisade.
Florence (10-2) features a strong running attack accentuated by two 1,000-yard rushers. Senior running back Ty Buderus leads the team's ground game with more than 1,300 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns this season.
Drake said the Huskies like to run the option, as evidenced by sophomore quarterback Jeremy Young's 1,000 rushing yards. Huskies quarterbacks have attempted only 131 passes this season, 30 of which were intercepted.
"They've got some big kids, good speed and a great running back," Drake said of the Huskies. "It's another excellent team."
The defending champions have run off four straight victories since losing at Alamosa in October. Florence posted 40 or more points in three of those games. The Huskies routed Skyview 63-26 in the first round of the playoffs before defeating Moffat County 33-13 in Craig last weekend.
The Sailors earned the trip to Florence by defeating Sterling 13-10 and second-ranked D'Evelyn 22-0. Both games were played at Steamboat's Gardner Field.
The team will travel to CaÃ±on City, which is about nine miles from Florence, early Friday morning and stay there overnight, Steamboat Athletics Director Richard Lee said. The Sailors have permission to use CaÃ±on City High School's field for practice Friday afternoon, Lee said.
Lee said he's looking into the possibility of chartering a couple of buses for the team as opposed to sending them down in school buses. The drive to Florence, which is about an hour south of Colorado Springs, is between four and five hours long, he said.
The district also may send a school bus to the game early Saturday morning for fans who wish to attend. The cost will be $10, and students will have priority in seating. Lee asked anyone interested in riding a bus to the game to call the high school at 879-1562 for more information.