Kent Denver no pushover

Sailors football team expects tough game from Class 2A opponent

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Sailors quarterback Tanner Stillwell, left, pitches the ball to fullback Josh Mangold during Thursday's practice. Coach Aaron Finch complimented his team's effort and told players they could be part of something special this year. The Sailors open the season against Kent Denver at 11 a.m. Saturday at Gardner Field.

— Call it part caution and part unknown, but Steamboat Springs football coach Aaron Finch is a little leery about Saturday's game against Kent Denver.

It's not that he isn't confident. In fact, he is excited and pleased with his team's progress the last two weeks of camp. He just knows that it's tough to judge a team's talent until it gets on the field for a game that matters.

"We have high expectations and high hopes," Finch said Thursday. "That doesn't mean anything until you put it on the field. We are where we want to be as a football team, we think."

Finch also cautioned that Kent Denver, although in a lower classification, is a scary opponent to start the season against.

The Sun Devils have been in the Class 2A state playoffs the past four years, and they lost in the semifinals last year. This year they're ranked No. 7 by the Rocky Mountain News in Class 2A. The Sailors are ranked No. 2 in Class 3A by the Rocky Mountain News.

"Clearly they are a solid program," Finch said. "The top teams in 2A are very tough. (Kent Denver) has obviously done a great job of building a program."

After watching film on Kent Denver, Finch said it's a very disciplined team. The Sun Devils have a good quarterback, good athletes and a big offensive line.

"It's a little scary to play a team that doesn't turn the ball over early in the season," he said.

Kent Denver head coach Scott Yates said he has had to fill a lot of holes from last year's team. The Sun Devils return just six starters - three on both sides of the ball - including starting quarterback Will Deevy. Deevy is being recruited by several Division I schools, including the University of Colorado.

"We're really kind of young at a lot of the positions," Yates said. "We expect to be green at the beginning of the season, but we think we can progress well later. It will be a great test, because obviously both teams were in the state semifinals last year."

Offensively, the Sun Devils are a balanced team. Finch said they tend to run a little more than they pass but will throw multiple formations at the Sailors.

The Sailors' focus this week has been on refining both offensive and defensive sets. Finch said he was happy with the progress his team has made. Because the game is a week earlier than usual, he said his team is a little worn down from all the practice.

Still, once game time comes, Finch said he knows his team will be ready.

"If we play the way we expect, we should be all right," he said. "We want to execute what we do really, really well. It has been a lot of work getting ready for the football season. It'll be nice to finally get in a rhythm."

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