The Eagle Valley football team is one of the hottest teams in the state.
The Devils are on a nine-game winning streak and have doubled their opposition in points, 326 to 152, in that time.
Eagle Vall--ey's closest game in the past two months was a 16-13 defeat of Steamboat Springs on Oct. 14 at Gardner Field, and the Devils had to come from behind in the final 30 seconds to win.
The two teams meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gardner Field, with a trip to the Class 3A state semifinals on the line.
"Both of our defenses confounded our offenses in the first game," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. "I'm struggling with trying to find any weaknesses in their defense. They match up with us really well."
Since the loss to Eagle Valley, Steamboat is on its own three-game winning streak, having outscored the opposition 101-21.
None of the 21 points was scored against the Sailors' starting defense.
In the first meeting, Eagle Valley fumbled seven times, losing four, but the Sailors could not capitalize, and the Devils took advantage.
Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno, a former Sailors football player, attributed the fumbles to a wet field, but he couldn't blame all the team's turnovers on the playing surface.
"Steamboat does a good job stripping it out," he said. "We had kids stand up, and they stripped it. ... Ball control will be a huge part of the game. Turnovers will be monumental."
Snow continued to pile up on an already wet field Thursday, so the Sailors are expecting a wet, muddy and slick field Saturday.
"Hopefully, they are more worried about it than we are," Finch said.
Punting, kicking and cutting on runs will be difficult to do Saturday. The Devils rely heavily on their speed and ability to cut and run to the outside. Some offensive plays may not work as designed, but Eagle Valley isn't about to change the team it is.
"I told these kids it's like going to prom," Ramunno said. "We are going to dance with the lady we brought. If you go and change your date, you're in trouble. Our offense has been doing pretty good. We put a whoop on Palisade, and the kids have confidence."
Finch ag----rees that few teams are playing as well as the Devils. Eagle Valley's 40-24 defeat of Palisade on Nov. 4 is one of the most impressive wins posted in the state this year.
Much like the Devils, the Sailors run a lot of offensive plays to the outside, especially with senior speedster Walker Hammond. But Steamboat has taken on a new identity in the past two games. In the snow against Glenwood Springs, and on a dry artificial field against Harrison, Steamboat's offensive line and sophomore running back Jay Hanley proved the Sailors can ran over and through people, as well.
Hanley had 175 yards rushing against Harrison.
"We are real happy with the way the line blocked last week," Finch said. "They were giving Jay the first 5 (yards), and we're real happy with the way he moved his legs after that. We've been trying to get Jay to understand, with his size and speed, he can be incredibly intimidating."
In the first meeting against Eagle Valley, Hanley wasn't a factor. He had no yards on two carries, and he was recovering from hand surgery. Hanley has to be considered a factor now.
Junior Tanner Stillwell injured his knee in the Harrison game, but Finch is optimistic the quarterback will play Saturday. Stillwell has been in physical therapy all week, and he had a late Thursday appointment with doctors to test his knee.
If Stillwell can't go, senior Jack Serhant will step in. Serhant orchestrated what may have been Steamboat's most important drives of the season in the third quarter of the Harrison game. On that drive, Serhant completed a pass to junior Aaron Hornstein, Serhant's replacement at wide receiver, and the drive sealed the win.
"We are a football team," Finch said. "To have a successful football team, you need guys stepping up."
The winner of Saturday's game will face the winner of the Rifle and Elizabeth game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Rifle.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com