Sailors breeze past Panthers

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Sam Green/Cortez Journal

— It was all Steamboat Springs Friday night at Panther Stadium as the visiting Sailors smashed the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers, 31-6, extending their record to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Western Slope League play.

Junior running back Jay Hanley was the workhorse for the Sailors, carrying the ball 27 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged more than six yards per carry on the night.

Quarterback Tanner Stillwell paced Steamboat Springs, completing 10 of 17 passes for 177 yards. The senior threw a touchdown and an interception, both of which came in the first half.

The scoring started early for the Sailors after the Panthers stalled on the opening drive and punted the ball to their own 32-yard line. Hanley then rushed the ball four straight times, capping the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to give the Sailors a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game.

Montezuma-Cortez got the ball on its own 20-yard-line after the first of many Ben Deline touchbacks - the junior kicker pinned the Panthers deep in their own end several times throughout the night.

In what would be one of their longest plays of the night, the Panthers hooked up a 40-yard pass play from quarterback Darren Wayman to Aaron Jackson, pushing the ball to the Steamboat Springs' 40-yard line. However, three straight Panther penalties forced Montezuma-Cortez to punt the ball with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter.

Hanley and Stillwell proceeded to march the Sailors down the field again as Stillwell completed passes to senior running back Jace Bonner and junior wideout Michael Stewart to set up a first-and-goal from the Cortez 9-yard line.

Stillwell then rolled out on a bootleg and found senior tight end Weston Cofer on the right side of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown strike.

The Panthers opened the second quarter on a sour note as Wayman fumbled on a quarterback keeper, setting the Sailors up with excellent field position from the Panther 33-yard line. Hanley capped Steamboat Springs' third scoring drive with a 12-yard touchdown run with just over nine minutes to play in the second quarter.

The Sailors had a chance to add to their lead in the first half after Cortez went for it on fourth-and-14 from its own 49-yard line with 55 seconds remaining. The Panthers failed to convert and Stillwell completed two consecutive passes to Stewart to push the Sailors to the 25-yard line with 15 seconds left until half-time.

Stillwell was then intercepted by a Panther defender near the goal line as the gun sounded. The Sailors headed into the locker room with a comfortable 21-0 lead.

The second half began much the same way as the first with Hanley rushing the ball several times. A highlight-reel diving catch by Stewart set up a 25-yard field goal by Deline, extending Steamboat Springs' lead to 24-0 with a little more than seven minutes to play in the third quarter.

Montezuma-Cortez got on the board late in the third quarter when Wayman bulldozed his way to the endzone from five yards out. After a botched extra point-attempt, the Sailors' lead was 24-6.

Hanley added another touchdown, his third of the contest, late in the fourth quarter when he took the ball in for a five-yard score.

The home team tried to rally for another touchdown after a 50-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, but sophomore linebacker Eric Bonner picked off a Wayman pass with just under two minutes to play, sealing the win for the Sailors, 31-6.

Besides Hanley and Stillwell, Stewart ended the night as the Sailors' leading receiver with 77 yards on five catches.

The Sailors return home next week to face Glenwood.

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