Playoff push

Sailors could wrap up No. 1 seed with a win

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Season statistics

First Downs 101

Rushes-Yards 327-1,526

Comp-Att-Int 73-149-6

Yards Passing 1,008

Total Yards 2,534

Punts-Avg. 37-40

Fumbles-lost 24-8

Penalties-Yards 61-574

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Steamboat 65-33-43-45-186

Opponent 00-38-22-31-91

INDIVIDUAL SEASON STATISTICS

Rushing

Jay Hanley 181-961, 10 TD; Sean Forney 22-104; Eric Bonner 22-68; Jace Bonner 12-38; Westin Cofer 14-77; Aaron Hornstein 9-43; Josh Mangold 4-8; Tanner Stillwell 51-222, 3 TD; Matt Lettunich 1-8; Houston Mader 2-2; Alex Wood 4-(-5).

Passing

Stillwell 71-145-6 988 yards, 10 TD; Wood 1-4-0 20 yards.

Receiving

Hanley 9-102, Hornstein 5-50, 1 TD; Westin Cofer 9-163, 5 TD; Nigel Hammond 11-155, 1 TD; Michael Stewart 17-236, 1 TD; Jace Bonner 16-256, 1TD; Jeff Dawes 3-27, 1 TD; Sean Forney 1-11; Houston Mader 1-8.

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Steamboat quarterback Tanner Stillwell and coach Aaron Finch have their sights focused on tonight's regular season finale against Battle Mountain. The Sailors already have clinched a playoff berth.

— The last time Steamboat Springs High School's football team came off an emotional road win against a league powerhouse, it fell flat the following week.

Sailors head coach Aaron Finch is confident this time will be different.

A week after defeating Palisade, 9-6, on the road earlier this season, the Sailors couldn't get anything going in a 16-6 home loss against Eagle Valley.

The circumstances are similar this week as Steamboat heads into tonight's regular season finale against Battle Mountain. The Sailors beat Rifle, 19-8, last week to claim the top spot in the Western Slope League. Battle Mountain enters tonight's game with three consecutive losses.

Finch said the Steamboat team that will take the field tonight is very different from the squad that floundered against Eagle Valley. For one, the Sailors are healthy.

Against Eagle Valley, running back Jay Hanley was suffering from a high hamstring pull and didn't play. Quarterback Tanner Stillwell wasn't feeling well after straining his neck against Laramie, Wyo. And, as a team, the Sailors were coming off three consecutive games in which they had short weeks to prepare.

"The difference is, this week, other than a few head colds, this is the healthiest we've ever been," Finch said. "I think by the time we got to Eagle Valley we were a pretty tired football team. Right now we are kind of hitting our stride."

Although Steamboat has clinched one of the top two spots in the Western Slope League, the team still needs a win against Battle Mountain or a Rifle loss to lock up the league championship.

The Huskies will provide a test tonight, Finch said.

"It's true in fashion, and as we've been saying about our league all year, anyone can beat anyone," Finch said. "Palisade, Glenwood Springs, Moffat County, Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain are all battling for the last two playoff spots. I am glad we are not in that mix and have already taken care of business as far as the playoffs go."

Despite losing three league games in a row, Battle Mountain has a realistic chance to make the Class 3A playoffs of the three teams bunched with 3-4 league records (Glenwood Springs and Eagle Valley). If Moffat County loses to Rifle, Palisade beats Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain beats Steamboat, the Huskies would make their first playoff appearance since 1995.

It's a tall order for Battle Mountain, but Finch said the Huskies have shown all year that they are a resilient bunch.

"What really stands out is both the offense and defensive lines for Battle Mountain," Finch said. "This year it is how hard they play. They bring it hard. That's something that they've been able to establish this year."

Running back Ryan Hedrick and his 1,115 yards and 10 TDs lead the Huskies. Hedrick has three games this year in which he has rushed for more than 200 yards.

Even with a playoff spot assured, Finch said he expects a classic Western Slope slugfest with the Huskies.

"We just need to focus on getting better," he said. "It gives us a chance to keep building the framework to build something that hopefully goes deep into the playoffs:that really has to be our focus this week. Obviously you look at your opponents strengths and what you need to do, but we need to make sure we're clicking."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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