Steamboat football cleans up

Sailors fill five spots on All-League first team

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— The accomplishments of a team that finished 10-2 and made it to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs were never more evident than on Tuesday night at the Steamboat Springs football banquet.

Head coach Aaron Finch announced that five Sailors earned Western Slope All-League first team honors (Westin Cofer, Joey Melius, Lane Shipley, Tanner Stillwell and Jay Hanley), five had been named honorable mention (Matt Beilhartz, Jace Bonner, Alex Centner, Sean Forney and Nigel Hammond) and two players had won special awards (Cofer and Shipley).

Finch was named co-coach of the year along with Rifle's Damon Wells.

The five first-team selections were tied with Rifle for the most among Western Slope League teams. Palisade had four, Moffat County had three, Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain had two and Cortez and Delta each had one.

"One of my hugest successes has been coaching these guys," Finch said.

Cofer, who finished the year with more than 130 tackles, was also named co-special teams player of the year along with Palisade's Tanner Whaley. Even though the Western Slope League doesn't have a defensive player of the year or a linebacker of the year, Finch said coaches around the league wanted to recognize Cofer for his outstanding play.

"Damon Wells told me it wasn't that his guards couldn't block Cofer, it was that they didn't want to block him," Finch said.

Shipley was selected by the conference's coaches as lineman of the year. Cofer and Shipley were also invited to play in the all-state game later in the year at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Sailors were selected as team academic champions with a 3.22 grade point average.

"That's impressive," Finch said. "Ninety percent of the team was on the honor roll while winning the league championship."

The league championship was the Sailors' first in 12 years. It also marked the third time in four years that the seniors made the playoffs and second year in a row the team has won 10 or more games.

Finch also gave away several team awards.

Tyler Harris was named scout team player of the year. Finch called him unblockable in practice. Jace Bonner was named special teams player of the year after averaging more than 40 yards a punt.

Tanner Stillwell was named offensive player of the year after throwing for more than 1,200 yards and rushing for more than 200 yards.

Joey Melius was named defensive player of the year. Finch said the center from Glenwood Springs told him blocking Melius was near impossible. Shipley was lineman of the year and Cofer was named most valuable player.

To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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