The Steamboat Springs football team didn't finish where it wanted in league standings, but the Sailors certainly finished their season the right way.
Despite losing standout running back Brad Bonner just three plays into the second half, the Sailors offense came up with enough clutch plays -- and the defense simply clamped down -- for a 23-17 victory against playoff-bound Glenwood Springs on Friday at Stubler Memorial Field. The victory was the fourth straight for a team that started the season with four losses.
"We didn't get into the playoffs, so for us ... this was our validation," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. "We wanted to find out where we got to (during the course of the season) and if we could compete with the good teams in this league."
Steamboat competed just fine against the Demons. Bonner supplied much of the offensive punch in the first half. The senior running back opened the scoring with a 32-yard run in the first quarter and ripped off a 74-yard run in the second quarter to set up a 12-yard touchdown by Clay McKenzie.
Add in a 28-yard field goal by Tyler Fosdick, and the Sailors led by as much as 17-3 in the first half before Daniel Mierkey scored the Demons' first touchdown 28 seconds before the intermission. Things took an ugly turn for Steamboat on the opening drive of the third quarter when Bonner went down with an injury after a 24-yard run. His night ended with 172 yards on 14 carries, and the Sailors offense initially struggled in his absence.
Glenwood's Jeremy Christner picked off Tanner Stillwell two plays after Bonner's exit and, after a Demon four-and-out, Steamboat gave the ball right back on a fumble at the Sailors' 36-yard line. Glenwood cashed in the turnover to even the score at 17-all on a Pat Reardon 14-yard run with 6:44 left in the third quarter. The Sailors offense got back on track for one more drive after the equalizer from Glenwood, and the defense made it stand up. A screen pass to Fosdick turned into a 57-yard gain, and McKenzie finished off the six-play, 72-yard drive with his second touchdown with 3:15 left in the third quarter. Fosdick's point-after kick clunked off the crossbar and out for the 23-17 lead.
"We're just not hitting on all cylinders right now, and we need to make a quick turn," said Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth, whose team won four of its past five games heading into Friday. "We've got to get that mojo back." Fosdick and Jack Serhant each intercepted Glenwood quarterback Eric Lundin's pass to kill the next two Demon drives, and neither team was able to earn a first down in the fourth quarter. Steamboat's Chris Baumann and Lane Shipley combined for a sack on fourth-and-8 with 1:35 left to seal the game.
"I'm really proud of the way the defense has played the last two weeks," Finch said.
Steamboat ends its season fifth in the Western Slope Conference at 4-4 (4-5 overall), and Glenwood (5-3, 6-4) claims the third seed out of the WSC for the Class 3A state playoffs.