Whether he wants it or not, the Steamboat Springs football team has given Lonny Radford the nickname "Heisman."
Friday night, the senior backed it up, scoring all three of Steamboat's touchdowns in a 20-7, hard-fought victory against Berthoud.
In college football, the Heisman Trophy is presented annually to the top player in the country. Radford won't get his hands on the famed bronze statue as a prep player, but his teammates feel the name suits Radford's knack for making big plays.
"He's leading that race right now," junior Tyler Fosdick said.
Friday, Radford returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown, returned an interception 98 yards for a score and, falling backward, caught a 40-yard, Brad Bonner-halfback pass for another six points.
Of Radford's three scores, none proved bigger than the near endzone-to-endzone interception of Berthoud quarterback Kyle Carron midway through the third quarter.
With a 7-0 lead, Steamboat had to punt on its opening possession of the third, and Berthoud went back to its running game. Picking up a string of consecutive first downs, Berthoud moved the chains easily from its own territory deep into Steamboat's side.
On both first-and-goal and second-and-goal, the Sailors stopped the Spartans runners for minimal to no gain. On third-and-goal, with the ball on Steamboat's own 3-yard line, Berthoud coach Dan McGinn called for a short pass toward the sideline.
McGinn wants the play back.
Radford read Carron's eyes and intercepted the quarterback's pass in stride, dashing 98 yards untouched for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 6:09 left in the third.
"Our kids played hard and we made a couple mistakes, but I'm going to take responsibility for that interception," McGinn said after the loss. "I shouldn't have called that play. We were running it down their throats."
Despite outgaining the Sailors 211 to 150 in total yards through three quarters, the Spartans did not get on the scoreboard until the closing seconds of the third when Jake Moon scored on a 7-yard run. Steve Pierick's extra point was good.
Two turnovers and three total fumbles hampered Berthoud's attempts to score Friday. But credit Steamboat's defense, when Berthoud made it inside the 20 throughout the game, the Sailors stepped it up and covered the field well, allowing just one Spartan score.
"Berthoud was tougher than hell," Steamboat coach Mark Drake said. "It was a physical game. But we scored in all three aspects of our game -- offense, defense and special teams -- which is nice to have."
Radford capped off his touchdown trifecta with 9:35 left in the fourth on a repeated halfback pass play call.
On the first attempt in the first half, Radford had to play more defensive back than receiver to prevent Berthoud from intercepting Bonner's pass.
The second time, Radford snuck behind the safeties and Bonner delivered a spiral into the waiting arms of Radford, who backpedaled across the goal line.
With the win, the Sailors improved to 3-0 on the season. Steamboat will look to remain undefeated when they open league play at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19 against Montezuma-Cortez at Gardner Field in Steamboat.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley
call 871-4208 or e-mail