Unsurpassed passing

But can the Sailors out-throw defending champs?

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This is the matchup Florence football coach Mark Buderus expected.

Picking Steamboat Springs to upset previously undefeated D'Evelyn wasn't the popular choice across the state last weekend. But it was the right one, Buderus said.

"I just didn't think D'Evelyn had to work during the season," he said.

After an afternoon of hard hits, defensive stops and fancy catches, the Sailors emerged with a convincing 22-0 win last weekend, earning the right to play in Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinal in Florence.

Steamboat has the most prolific passing attack in the state. Senior quarterback David May has thrown for more than 2,300 yards, which is more than 600 yards ahead of Fountain-Fort-Carson's Ryan Walker, whose team's season ended last weekend against Palisade.

In seniors Lonny Radford (837 yards) and Chris Dombey (612 yards), the Sailors have two of the top four receivers in the state. Like May, Radford and Dombey are the only players ranked in the top 10 in their respective categories --passing and receiving -- who are still playing football.

"They are a throwing team, and I haven't seen anybody do it better than they do it," Buderus said.

While the success of Steamboat's passing game is well documented, the running game steadily is improving. Muddy and wet field conditions at Gardner Field during the past two weekends have limited players such as Radford and Shea Hurley from using their speed to get to the outside and cut back behind the lead blockers.

Buderus said the field in Florence is in great playing condition, which should only help Steamboat's offense and kicker Tyler Fosdick.

The Sailors also will welcome the return of starting running back Brad Bonner, who is finished serving a two-game suspension. Bonner is not only Steamboat's leading rusher this season with 597 yards; he is one of the team's best blockers, as well.

"It has been a little frustrating for our offense during the last two weeks," Steamboat coach Mark Drake said. "But when you stop and think about what they did last week in those conditions, we had 285 yards passing. That's not too shabby, and the ground game has improved."

But leading Steamboat into the postseason is a defense that's surrendered just 10 points in wins against Sterling and D'Evelyn this postseason.

Sterling amassed nearly 400 yards in total offense, including 220 on the ground, but Steamboat kept the Tigers out of the end zone for most of the game and forced four turnovers.

The Sailors forced the Jaguars to turn the ball over four times last weekend, too. Through two postseason games, Steamboat has a plus-4 turnover margin and one shutout.

It has been one season since Florence was in the state semifinals. It has been 13 years since Steamboat was in the position it will be in Saturday. It is an opportunity no one on the Sailors squad will take for granted -- or take lightly.

"Coming in to the D'Evelyn game, we weren't cocky," Radford said. "Even the students at the high school thought we'd get killed. I still don't think we're favored to win this weekend. It's hard to be cocky when no one thinks you're going to win."

A pep rally will be held at 8:25 a.m. Friday in the high school gym, before the team leaves for Florence.

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