Sailors football opens season in Aurora

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School is not yet in session, but the Steamboat Springs football team opens its season earlier than usual with a Saturday game at Aurora Central.

Schools in Classes 2A through 5A are allowed to play 10 games. Last year, the Sailors played nine.

After searching through ev-ery schedule to find another opponent for the 2005 season, Steamboat coach Aaron Finch stumbled upon Aurora Central, a Class 5A independent school that also played nine games last year.

Saturday's game is at 1 p.m. at Ellium Field on the Aurora Central campus.

Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knez-evich and Aurora Central coach David Hall grew up together, Hall said, so it was a good fit for the schools.

The Trojans, who are rebuilding, finished 3-6 last season and play an independent schedule that bars them from the postseason but enables them to play smaller schools.

Steamboat and Aurora Cent-ral are two of 22 teams scheduled to play a "zero week" game this weekend. The week is called zero week because the Colorado High School Activities Association doesn't count it toward one of the 10 competitive weeks during the regular season.

"Basically, it's because you can't get it scheduled any other way," Finch said.

Playing Saturday gives the Sailors a bye week in late October.

"I'm glad it's a zero-week game," Finch said. "We are targeting to be in the playoffs this year. Week 8 isn't a bad week to have a bye, and you want to have 10 games. Our first conference game is against Palisade. They'll have one game under their belt. We'll have two."

Finch said he and Hall ex--changed film and had a conversation about their teams. Aurora Central is watching Steamboat's 23-17 win against Glenwood Springs, and Steamboat is breaking down Aurora Central's 49-12 loss to Westminster.

Win or lose, one thing stands out about the Trojans.

"They run a single wing," Finch said about Aurora Central's offense. "You don't see it a lot."

The Trojans operate their offense out of the shotgun, with an emphasis on misdirection. The Sailors defense won't see a single-wing offense again this year.

"They are a 5A school, so they have good athletes and good team speed," Finch said. "They just haven't had a good football tradition."

Hall said several players he was counting on this year decided not to play because they made verbal commitments to play basketball in college and don't want to jeopardize that, which he understands.

In addition, Aurora Central started school Aug. 15 and did not have two-a-day practices.

"That didn't help things," Hall said. "We are a building program. Next year, we will be in the Skyline League as part of that league in that capacity."

The Sailors are fighting the flu bug and may be down some players, as well, but they will have senior Thomas Allen in the defensive lineup Saturday, Finch said. The veteran linebacker had an ankle injury that sidelined him for the intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 20.

"They are really starting to come together as a group," Finch said about his team. "They are really enjoying getting ready for the team. The coaching staff is enjoying coaching them, too."

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