Rivalry renewed

Sailors football squad takes on Moffat County

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Statistics and records don't mean anything tonight.

When the Steamboat Springs High School football team (3-1 overall, 1-1 in league) makes the 45-minute drive to Moffat County this afternoon, the only sure thing will be two Western Slope teams slugging it out for pride and playoff positioning.

"It's a rivalry game," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said about the battle against the Bulldogs. "You can look at all the game film all you want, but in this one, you throw all of that out. We tend to play close games. It's not always who people call the favorite that wins."

Tonight's matchup pits two teams with varying styles at varying points in their respective seasons.

The Sailors are coming off their first loss of the season, a 16-6 home defeat at the hands of Eagle Valley. After starting the season with three wins, including an impressive road victory at Palisade, the Sailors struggled against a stingy Eagle Valley defense. The team had a bye week last weekend.

"It's almost like the first game of the season," said Finch, whose team has had different elements of success both running and passing the ball this season. "We're still trying to get an identity offensively."

Conversely, the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-2) are coming off a 26-6 win against the same Eagle Valley team. Moffat County started the season 1-2, losing to Battle Mountain and Palisade - games they led at halftime.

"It was something that we really needed," Bulldogs coach Kip Hafey said about the win against Eagle Valley. "We needed a win in that game."

The Sailors and Bulldogs bring two very different offensive philosophies. The Sailors have more of a balanced attack - having games of more than 200 yards passing and 175 yards rushing each this season - while the Bulldogs line up to try to pound the ball on the ground.

"They're big, they're strong and they want to jam it down your throat offensively," Finch said about Moffat County.

It's the size of Moffat County players that worries Finch. Playing with an undersized but speedy defense, Finch said to be successful against the Bulldogs, his defense will have to fly to the ball.

"If we allow them to get into us, they'll just grind out four yards at a time," Finch said. "What's scary is we're not that big on defense. Hopefully, we'll be able to play aggressively like we want to."

Still, Hafey said his team is taking the underdog mentality going into tonight's Western Slope League clash.

"There is no secret about it, we are a blue-collar, hard-working team," he said. "Across the board they are bigger and more talented. My kids are gritty and tough and are going to go hard."

The Sailors hope starting running back Jay Hanley will return to the lineup tonight. After sitting out two games with a leg injury and getting an additional rest week during the bye, Hanley wore pads during practice this week. Finch said he was questionable for the game tonight.

With both teams eyeing one of the four playoff spots in the Western Slope, both coaches said a victory tonight will have a big impact on the rest of their seasons - not to mention bragging rights.

"This type of rivalry, I think, is one of the great things about sports." Hafey said.

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