Saturday, September 25, 2004
Wet grass, streamers and reserved smiles were strewn through the Steamboat Springs High School hallways Friday night.
Those who haven't seen much of the Sailors this season probably were drawn to the fact that they dropped their fourth-straight game Friday, a 40-20 loss to Moffat County, and racked up 157 yards on 17 penalties in the process, assisting the Bulldogs on several of their scoring drives.
The penalties are correctable. It could be argued that several of them were questionable, but the reason for the half-smiles and optimistic attitude in the Steamboat locker room stemmed from the positive turnover margin, the improved play on offense and that Friday's game marked the end of a September schedule that put the Sailors up against a larger Class 4A school, Arvada, and three of the top five teams in Class 3A, Palisade, Rifle and Moffat County.
After Friday's game, done at last with the stretch of tough match-ups, Steamboat coach Aaron Finch already was looking ahead to next week.
"Done?" he said. "Now, we have to start."
For the remainder of the season, Steamboat will face Cortez, Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Delta and Glenwood Springs. Other than Eagle Valley, which moved into the 3A Western Slope League this year, every team appears improved.
However, they all are teams the Sailors defeated last year, most in resounding fashion, so Steamboat finds itself in an unfamiliar position for the remainder of the regular season: the favorite.
"It sucks that we lose," senior Tyler Fosdick said. "It'd be tougher if we were 0-4 and not playing these teams. We aren't getting down on ourselves. We can't. We have a much easier road ahead."
If anyone had the biggest smile on Friday night, it was Fosdick. For the first time all season, he was able to run -- and jump -- off the field after a game. The Sailors coaches moved the senior to wide receiver and returned him to his safety spot in the secondary, a spot where he was missed.
Sophomore quarterback Tanner Stillwell made his first varsity start in Fosdick's place and had one touchdown pass and one interception Friday. The Sailors did a much better job of protecting the football. The offensive line opened larger holes for its backs and did a much better job of protecting the quarterback.
Stillwell was sacked once, and the Sailors amassed 110 yards on the ground, which was just 24 yards less than they had gained on the ground in the first three games combined.
Moffat County had the league's top defense last season.
With all those positives to build on, Steamboat will have to prepare for one negative in the coming week: the eight-hour drive to Montezuma-Cortez High School. But the Sailors have put themselves in a position where they can ill afford to lose another league game if they hope to make the playoffs.
Every Sailor player understands that, even if it seems no one else thinks they can do it.
"Not many people in the community or in our school support us anymore," senior Charlie Pappas said. "But we have each other and, as a football team, you couldn't ask for anything else."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com