Melinda Mawdsley: Storm warning

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Thunder and Lightning. That's the nickname KRMR radio announcer Brian Harvey gave to the duo of 6-foot, 202-pound sophomore fullback Jay Hanley and 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior "Z-back" Walker Hammond on Friday night.

The duo, with generous help from the Steamboat Springs football team's offensive line, combined for 262 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 44-14 whipping of Harrison.

Hanley and Hammond have excelled in previous games, but Friday's was the first game this season they were healthy and playing together on a dry field.

"Jay really came of age tonight," Sailors coach Aaron Finch said Friday. "And Walker ran great."

Hammond, or "Light--ning," didn't fully recover from mononucleosis until the end of September. Since his full-time return, opposing defenses have struggled with his speed and quickness.

Hanley, or "Thunder," missed the middle portion of the regular season because of hand surgery. In his return against Glenwood Springs, he scored the game-winning, 52-yard touchdown.

Hammond entered this season with limited varsity experience. Hanley had none. Throughout the season, however, Hanley has become a tougher football player. He is better at holding on to the football and rarely goes down after the first hit.

"How many running backs do they have?" Harrison coach Shawn Mitchell inquired.

If Hammond is "Light--ning" and Hanley is "Thunder, then Steamboat's defense was a blizzard Friday; appropriate considering the conditions that greeted the team on Rabbit Ears Pass when it returned.

Using just three down linemen, as well as their assortment of blitzes, the Sailors disrupted Panthers quarterback Adam Gates from all angles.

Steamboat's starting defense did not give up a touchdown.

"We just used our speed," Savage said. "Their lateral movement wasn't as fast as ours."

Harrison's fan base wasn't as spirited, either.

Finch repeatedly has called the team's trip to the Class 3A state playoffs a reward.

For whom?

It's obviously a well-deserved reward for the players and coaching staff, but the playoffs also should be a reward for the parents, the school district and the community.

After Friday and Saturday games, eight teams are left. Steamboat is one of them.

By virtue of winning its opening-round playoff game on the road, Steamboat will host Eagle Valley at Gardner Field this week.

The Sailors, who continue to improve every week, deserve the chance to play in a packed stadium.

It is up to the community to make that happen.

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