Finally. After five weeks of sleepless nights, second-guessing calls and questioning talent, the Steamboat Springs football team got the complete game it had been waiting for, defeating Battle Mountain, 42-9, in its homecoming game Friday night.
"I hope we start believing we are the team we thought we were at the start," Sailors coach Aaron Finch said. "That had kind of gotten beat out of us."
Uncertainty had crept into the team, Brad Bonner said. Steamboat, a team that had little trouble finding ways to win last year, had all of a sudden forgotten what it took to get it done.
"That was part of our problem," Bonner said. "We expected to lose."
In last week's loss to Montezuma-Cortez, the Sailors wasted a 189-yard effort from Bonner. On Friday, Steamboat got on Bonner's back, as the senior rushed for 169 yards on 16 carries. He picked up nearly all the Sailors' 75 yards on the opening drive of the game that quickly lifted Steamboat to a 7-0 lead.
The breaks the Sailors had grown accustomed to seeing their opponents get went their way early in Friday's game. Battle Mountain fumbled on its opening possession and threw an interception on its second. With 4 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter, Steamboat capitalized off the second turnover when senior Charlie Pappas caught the first of his three touchdowns on a short pass that he turned into a touchdown.
The Sailors added another score on the Huskies' third turnover of the first quarter at the 2:59 mark when Steamboat senior Chris Baumann forced the fumble that junior Walker Hammond recovered.
"At the beginning, we were disciplined and playing football, and when we do that, we're a pretty good football team," Finch said.
Steamboat went into the half up 28-0 when Pappas caught his third touchdown of the game off sophomore quarterback Tanner Stillwell's perfect across-the-body pass. Pappas juggled the ball, popping it up in the air, before he gained control for the score.
Senior Tyler Fosdick was a perfect 6-of-6 in his PAT attempts.
The Sailors extended their lead in the third on Bonner's 58-yard run. Steamboat ran two basic rushing plays Friday because it didn't need much else. Bonner said the play is essentially a sweep-off tackle, but its success is predicated around his lead blocks.
"I just read Pappas," Bonner said.
Bonner had one 80-yard touchdown run called back early in the game on a holding call. If there was anything the Sailors didn't do well, it was the 103 yards in penalties they accumulated. Friday was the third straight time Steamboat has reached the 100-yard mark in penalties.
The game was marred by a high number of flags, Battle Mountain coach Pat Engle said, and the behavior of several Steamboat players -- he didn't know names -- had he and his team visibly upset after the loss.
Engle has been coaching football for 15 years and said he has never seen such "classless" behavior from an opponent. He said he can accept a defeat, but he can't accept his players being singled out and verbally assailed on the football field.
Steamboat players didn't know specifics but acknowledged that discipline, most notably busy mouths, has been an issue for several of their teammates this season, and it is something that the Steamboat coaches addressed after the game.
Battle Mountain did get on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when junior Derek Rush blocked a punt that sailed out the backside of the end zone. The Huskies added a touchdown with 31 seconds left in the fourth on a 35-yard run from sophomore Chad Wilkinson. Senior Patrick Scanlan added the PAT. Scanlan also converted on a 40-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, but a roughing-the-kicker call against the Sailors enabled the Huskies to get a first down and attempt to score a touchdown. Fosdick picked off a TJ Montoya pass several plays later.
Steamboat's defense was active, opportunistic and smothering for the first time all season, nearly getting the shutout. Battle Mountain's quarterback and running backs frequently were met in the backfield by Steamboat defenders, particularly seniors Clay McKenzie, Chris Baumann and Trace Adams.
McKenzie also scored Steamboat's last touchdown on a 2-yard run early in the fourth.
Steamboat improves to 1-5 with the win and 1-4 in Western Slope League play. Battle Mountain falls to 2-4 and 0-4.
Steamboat's next game is a 7 p.m. matchup against Eagle Valley on Friday in Gypsum.