Moffat County football coach Kip Hafey studied Steamboat Springs game film earlier this week, and even he is taken aback by the fact that the Sailors have yet to win a game.
"I think they are the best 0-3 team in the state," Hafey said. "I definitely think they are a playoff-caliber team. ... They have several guys that are really tough players. I think that's why Steamboat is going to be a good team. I know they've had a rough start."
Hafey has been there. He took over the Moffat County program three years ago, and the Bulldogs sputtered out to a 0-2 start. They went on to make the playoffs, finishing 6-5. One of those wins was against Steamboat. That loss kept the Sailors out of the playoffs.
Hafey and Steamboat coach Aaron Finch, in his first year, think Steamboat has the potential to finish above .500, as well, and the Sailors wouldn't mind notching their first win of the season against the rival Bulldogs in the 7 p.m. game today at Gardner Field.
"I don't think either team will have a hard time getting up for this one," Hafey said.
Moffat County (3-0) travels to Steamboat having outscored the opposition, 168-6, this season.
Barring some unforeseeable tumble, the Bulldogs will return to the playoffs in November, but Hafey said their dominance in the first three games has surprised him, considering their opponents have a combined record of 2-8.
"The kids believe in what we are doing," he said. "A lot of teams can play to the level of the team they are playing."
The Sailors wouldn't mind playing at the Bulldogs' level tonight. Records tend to matter little in rivalry games, but Moffat County has to be considered a favorite based on its strength, skill and experience at nearly every position -- most notably up front and in its backfield.
Finch said he feels like a broken record, but the same traits that made Arvada, Palisade and Rifle tough match-ups for Steamboat also hold true for Moffat County.
"Moffat's strength, though they have fast guys, is size and strength," Finch said. "The hard thing for us is Eagle Valley showed a few cracks for five minutes. Otherwise, no one has shown where weaknesses can be. Figuring out where to attack them is part of the challenge as a result of their schedule."
Finch, on the other hand, is preparing to see heavy doses of Moffat County running backs Kellan Moore, Daniel Tague, Daniel Cramblett and 225-pound fullback Scott Garoutte after Palisade and Rifle combined to rush for more than 650 yards against Steamboat's defense.
Moffat County will have to replace starting offensive lineman Chris Compton, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.
Junior Derek Duran, who shared time with Aaron Sanchez last season, is the full-time quarterback for the Bulldogs. His presence in the pocket has enabled Moffat County to form a passing attack that wasn't much of a threat last year.
Last week against Rifle, Sailors sophomore quarterback Tanner Stillwell performed well, helping Steamboat score its only touchdown of the game after Tyler Fosdick was forced to the sideline with a knee injury at the end of the first half.
Fosdick, who is known for his willingness to play through pain, continues to be ready for games. The Steamboat coaches want to be careful with his injury, however, to avoid losing him for the season, so it is unclear which quarterback will start tonight.
"We are mainly focused on getting Tyler healthy," Finch said.
The Sailors will have to replace starting offensive lineman Zack Savage, who likely is sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury. Steamboat is developing several linemen and will need to fill that void immediately.
"Technically, we are good, getting better," he said. "We have a bunch of young kids that are getting better at understanding the game. What helps us and how we've improved is we have gone against big defensive linemen."
It will be the same story tonight. The Sailors are just ready for the story to end with a win.