Steamboat Springs Calm. That was the word Vince Grippa used to describe Steamboat Springs coach Aaron Finch at halftime.
And why wouldn't he be?
The Sailors, one of the Western Slope League's best teams, were 5-1 in close games before facing struggling Glenwood Springs on Friday.
But there the Demons were, hanging around on a cold and snowy night when one missed tackle or one turnover could have been the difference. Despite having been eliminated from playoff contention and despite the absence of 11 seniors who were kicked off the team earlier this week for violating team rules, Glenwood kept Steamboat to a scoreless tie at the half.
And still, Finch, the coach who jumps into post-game piles with his players, didn't raise his voice.
"I was surprised," Grippa said. "We didn't make any adjustments at halftime."
The Sailors didn't need to; they held the Demons to negative 8 yards in the second half before winning 10-0 on two fourth-quarter scores.
"These guys have shown when the games are close, they step up and play," Finch said.
After dominating the line of scrimmage for three quarters, the Sailors finally broke free when sophomore Jay Hanley ran 52 yards for the score with 11 minutes, 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Hanley outran everyone, getting fresh tracks to the west end zone.
"This was the first time I've felt back since I've been hurt," Hanley said, showing off his scar. "I was hitting holes, and my hand didn't hurt."
Hanley ripped the ligament from his bone on his left thumb during the Moffat County game. Surgery repaired the damage, but Hanley sat out the Cortez game and hasn't played much since.
On Friday, he wore a new quick cast that allows him to feel the football. It's made a difference.
"It's about time," he said.
Sophomore kicker Ben DeLine added insurance points with a 17-yard field goal with 3:04 to go.
Demons coach Rocky Whitworth said bad weather is an equalizer and that the team that executes the best will win. On Friday, however, the Glenwood coach sent a host of underclassmen, including freshman quarterback Dakota Stonehouse, onto the field against a fast and talented Sailors defense.
It was a tough task to ask the Demons to overcome that defense.
"We had a lot of young guys on the field tonight," Whitworth said.
Glenwood only managed six yards in total offense. Stonehouse threw two interceptions to Steamboat's Scott Stanko, and Zack Savage recovered two Demon fumbles. Westin Cofer caused both. Steamboat's Sam Gary and Nigel Hammond also blocked a punt.
"Defense definitely has the advantage in snow," Grippa said.
Offensively, Hanley led the Sailors with 155 yards on 21 carries. Walker Hammond had 44 yards, as well.
Friday's game was the final regular season game for the following Steamboat seniors: Treat Romick, Byron Radcliff, Jack Serhant, Travis Holly, Tanner Grimes, Daniel MacArthur, Walker Hammond, Scott Stanko, Andy Morrell, Alex Berger, Nick Mosser, Thomas Allen, Justin Howard, Vince Grippa, Zack Savage, Lee Morris, Ty Robinson, Jake Kleman and Sam Gary.
Up next for Steamboat is the Class 3A playoffs. The opponent and time are yet to be determined, but the Sailors will face the No. 2 seed from the Southern League. Eagle Valley is the top seed in the league, having upset Palisade on Friday. Rifle will be the No. 4 seed, the same seed it secured last year before surprising the state and winning the Class 3A title.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org