Sometimes old habits are hard to break, but Steamboat Springs football coach Mark Drake is expanding his offensive horizons to increasingly include the pass.
This season, he has set a target of 20 attempts per game for his quarterbacks. Steamboat hasn't met it yet, but Drake is optimistic.
Against Sierra in the season opener Aug. 30, quarterback David May threw the ball 18 times. Against Eagle Valley on Friday, May and Tyler Fosdick combined for 17 pass attempts.
In both games, the Sailors held reasonably large leads, making it wiser to keep the ball in the hands of the backs to chew up time. After the Sierra game, however, Drake said he wanted to pass more but got caught up in what he's accustomed to -- calling running plays.
Steamboat assistant Bob Harris has served alongside Drake for a majority of Drake's 30 years as head coach. He remembers when the Sailors were lucky to attempt two passes a game. In recent years, however, Steamboat's skill players have allowed Drake to open up the playbook.
And this year has the potential to be as explosive a year as any.
Through two games against formidable opponents in Class 3A Sierra and Class 2A Eagle Valley, a 2002 state semifinalist, Steamboat has outscored the opposition 91-48.
Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno previously played and coached with Drake. After his Devils lost Friday, he said he recognized most of the plays Drake was throwing at his defense. This year's team held a clear advantage over previous Steamboat teams Ramunno has faced, however.
"They have a lot of speed," he said. "They did a good job keeping our defense off balance. Their quarterback throws the ball well, and their receivers did a real nice job, as well."
The Sailors have run an estimated 125 plays in 2003, gaining 811 total yards, an average of 6.5 yards per play.
"This year we will be pulling out all the stops using the throw to set up the run," Drake said. "We haven't ignored the running game, we feel we can get a happy mix between the two."
Of the 13 touchdowns Steamboat has scored this season, seven have been on rushing plays, five have come on pass plays, and one was scored by the defense.
Balance makes a team harder to defend. For the Sailors, the balance they have displayed in the early season, when the defense is the more polished of the two, may mean the difference between making the 2003 playoffs and spending a second-straight postseason at home.
Through two weeks in Western Slope play, Steamboat and Palisade remain the lone undefeated teams. Glenwood Springs and defending league champion Rifle lost to Class 2A Roaring Fork, which is on a mission to dethrone Eagle Valley as the top team in its league.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org