Lost among all the 10s and 11s on the Steamboat Springs football roster are the 12s -- the 12th-graders, that is.
This year, there are just 10 seniors on the team, which made things difficult early on for the Sailors. After compiling a 0-5 record through early October, Steamboat has won two straight games by a combined score of 77-30. Each of the 10 seniors, four of whom aren't four-year high school players, have been integral in the Sailors' bid to finish the regular season with two more victories.
Steamboat will honor its seniors -- Trace Adams, Chris Baumann, Brad Bonner, Wayne Buelter, Daniel Coloccia, Tyler Fosdick, Clay McKenzie, Charlie Pappas, Russ Ruppert and Danny Weiss -- before its 7 p.m. kickoff against Delta today at Gardner Field.
It is the final regular season home game for Steamboat.
Baumann, Bonner, Buelter, Fosdick, McKenzie and Pappas are the only key players -- other than junior Vince Grippa -- from last year's state semifinal team. Those six, along with Adams, Coloccia, Ruppert and Weiss, were relentless in their pursuit to become better during the offseason, Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said.
"We had six returners," he said. "If you think about the impact they had on last year's team, all of them were impact players both offensively and defensively. You see this core. Problem was, we just had six of them. ... They've done everything they could to make it happen. They've brought such a great personality to the team."
Football isn't the only sport in which the number of senior players was down this fall. The soccer team had just six seniors. The tennis team had two. Ideally, Finch said, there would be 20 players per class, particularly in Class 4A, and the Sailors will be closer to that number in the coming years, but no one on Steamboat's team is ready to look ahead to 2005.
With Delta and Glenwood Springs left on the regular season schedule, Steamboat has a chance to make a statement in the final two games against quality opponents. Delta beat Montezuma-Cortez one week after Steamboat lost in Cortez. Glenwood beat Rifle and has since become the surprise team of this year's Western Slope League, just as Steamboat was one season ago.
The Sailors will tackle the Delta Panthers tonight.
Delta is just 3-6 overall and 2-5 in league play, but Finch said the Panthers' record is deceptive, much like Steamboat's 2-5 and 2-4 records. The Panthers are coming off a 42-31 home loss to Eagle Valley.
Steamboat defeated Eagle Valley, 35-21, on Oct. 15 in its most complete game of the season, Finch said.
"We came out a bit slow emotionally, but what I was so proud of was they started taking care of business and each other," he said. "They kept playing hard. It was a very fun game."
Steamboat amassed 420 yards of offense in that game, and the defense prevented Eagle Valley from climbing back during the second half. Bonner, McKenzie and Coloccia combined to rush for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Pappas, Fosdick and McKenzie caught touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Tanner Stillwell.
"What's been great the last couple of weeks has been making some adjustments to the offense and using our talent," Finch said. "It's given us a lot of flexibility to put new stuff in. We've gotten Daniel and Clay more involved."
The Sailors had a bye week last Friday and spent last week's practice healing, reviewing fundamentals and preparing for Delta. Finch said the team had a great defensive practice Tuesday. He expects some rust tonight but hopes it chips away quickly because Delta is an improved team.
"They had a lot of tough early games like we did," Finch said. "I'm very impressed with their line. Their linebackers read very quickly. It's fun watching them play. On offense, their quarterback is a talented athlete. He's absolutely the key to their option."
Finch said Delta runs the power-I and option offenses, and playing assignment football is the key to defending both. Both teams have speed and athleticism, which should make for an exciting regular season home finale for the Sailors.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com