Future of football

JV team's hard work to pay off -- in two years

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How much the Steamboat Springs junior varsity football team accomplished this season will begin to show up in 2005.

Two years from now, this year's JV team will be the varsity team for the Sailors. Two years from now, lessons this year's freshmen and sophomores learned will begin to pay dividends.

Coach Aaron Finch is pleased with what he saw this season from Steamboat's JV squad.

"They are a great group," Finch said. "You still don't know who these kids are going to be yet. They are still growing up. Some have reached their height and some have barely started growing. You encourage them to work hard and continue playing football."

Finch and fellow coaches Kevin Kaminski, John Shipley and Chris Sullivan worked extensively on individual skills development with the Sailors this year, as is customary with any JV team.

The coaches implemented the system the varsity uses -- albeit at an easier level. While many JV teams opt to run the ball with a few scattered passing plays, Steamboat's coaches called more pass plays this season than in years past.

They used the varsity's jazz and multiple receiver set packages and the talent of quarterbacks Josh Lorimer, a sophomore, and Tanner Stillwell, a freshman, as well as sophomore receiver Clay Whiddon and sophomore backs Walker Hammond and Tanner Grimes.

Steamboat ended up 5-5 overall, including a loss to Hayden's varsity team. The highlight of the season came in the final game of the year when Steamboat defeated Moffat County 28-8.

"What was very encouraging about the Moffat win, especially for those sophomores, was that they really came together as a team and began understanding how to work as a unit," Finch said. "They made a ton of progress this year."

What also stood out to Finch was the emergence of Hammond and Thomas Allen, not as football players, but as leaders for the sophomore class.

"Walker showed himself to be varsity ready, and I think kids were waiting for him to become a leader. In the Moffat County game, he took charge," Finch said. "And Thomas Allen is one of those kids who's early for every practice and plays every down of every game hard. That leadership began to shine."

Two of Steamboat's 10 JV games were freshman games, and the freshmen went 1-1. Lower numbers prevent the Sailors from having separate freshman and JV squads. And lower participation numbers at the varsity level forced many JV players to split time between the varsity and JV practices.

While Finch would have liked his entire JV roster present for its entire practice, he acknowledges that many younger players have picked up valuable experience by practicing and even playing a bit at the varsity level.

For many younger players, the season continues with Steamboat's varsity team tonight against Battle Mountain and into the postseason.

Sailors coach Mark Drake has called up Stillwell and fellow freshmen Alex Centner, Tucker Campbell, Jace Bonner and Lane Shipley to suit for the final weeks of the 2003 season.

Finch said it was tough to mention individual contributions made by players this season because of the completeness of the JV squad. The offensive and defensive lines, with an average weight of 200 pounds, should only grow bigger and better.

The Sailors have talent at their skill positions and defenders that love to tackle, as well, Finch said.

"I think this experience is great for all of them," Finch said. "They are great kids, and their parents should be proud for the job they've done with them all."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com.

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