Underdog Sailors head to Greeley for first round of state playoffs

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Steamboat Springs' Danilo Farias kicks the ball downfield during the Sailors' 1-0 victory against Eagle Valley earlier this season. The Sailors will travel to Greeley today to take on high-powered Greeley Central in the first round of the state playoffs. The game will begin at 6 p.m.

— If he could, Greeley Central coach Ian Wale would simply throw the records and the seeds out the window before today's first-round playoff game against Steamboat Springs.

"The seeds don't matter," Wale said Monday. "All that matters are the 80 minutes we are on the field. We've played Steamboat teams in the past, and we know they have a quality program and that this will be a tough game."

The Greeley Central Wildcats will host the first-round playoff game after finishing second to Broomfield in the Northern League with a 12-3 record. But the Wildcats, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year, have been ranked in the Top 10 all season and are a real threat to win a state title.

The team also has been red hot in October, winning the past six games including contests against Niwot, Greeley West and Northridge high schools.

Steamboat will be hoping to cool the Wildcats' run.

"The key component for our team will be containing their top two players," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. "Those two guys have scored 90 percent of Greeley Central's goals this season, and that team has scored a lot of goals."

Bohlmann knows keeping the ball from midfielder Morgan Sacco and forward Ben Buhler, both all-state first team selections in 2006, is going to be difficult.

"It's one thing to do it on paper," Bohlmann said. "It's another to get it done on the field."

If the Sailors hope to upset the Wildcats, Bohlmann knows Steamboat will need to control the ball and keep it away from Central's key players. The Sailors' second task will be beating Greeley goalkeeper Jeff Allen - who has allowed only three goals this month.

Steamboat will enter the game as an underdog, but the Steamboat team has at least two things going for it.

First the Sailors are very familiar with the Greeley Central program. The two coaches have faced each other in the postseason four times in the past six years in either the boys or girls state playoffs. Bohlmann says he is familiar with Wale's programs, and that could be an advantage tonight. Bohlmann also will be counting on the Sailors' ability to keep things competitive, which has been a key to the team's success this season.

The Sailors have given opposing teams on the squad's schedule this season everything they could handle. Win or lose, the Steamboat players have shown the ability to dig deep when the game, and the season are on the line.

Just last week, the team rallied in the final minutes of a critical league game against Moffat County. The effort resulted in a 2-2 tie and helped Steamboat get into the playoffs for the second-straight year with a 6-7-2 overall record. Steamboat was 6-4-2 in league play.

"Rob (Bohlmann) is a very good coach, and his programs are always very strong," Wale said. "We are thrilled to be playing this game at home - it's a big advantage. But these are the playoffs, and as we all know, anything can happen."

- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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