Last-second Sailors TD seals wild win

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2007 Sailors Football

* -- State playoff game.

— Wow.

What else can be said about a game in which the Steamboat Springs high school football team allowed Eagle Valley to close within two points on a 79-yard touchdown play - on a fourth-and-16 as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter - and the refs first waved off the tying two-point conversion, then waved it back on to tie the game at 27, before Steamboat's Austin Hinder hit Nigel Hammond for a 67-yard touchdown pass to seal a 34-27 win.

All in the final 32 seconds.

"I never had to go through that," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said Friday night in Gypsum. "We let somebody (pass us), then they let somebody pass them. Both quarterbacks made great plays and receivers made great plays. We just happened to have the last play."

The last play was one where the football gods must have been smiling on the Sailors.

Steamboat was up 27-19 with 1:32 left in the game when, after a Fraser Egan sack of Eagle Valley quarterback Hunter Blevins and two incomplete passes, the Devils found themselves in a fourth-and-16 on their own 21-yard line.

Blevins found a streaking Nick Whitehead running down the middle of the field. Whitehead caught the ball in stride and went 79 yards for the score.

Still down two, Eagle Valley went for two.

On the first try, Steamboat was whistled for pass interference. With the ball inside the two-yard line, Eagle Valley gave the ball to John Crawford over the left side.

After the referee closest to the play signaled the conversion failed, the referees assembled and changed the call, tying the game at 27.

On the ensuing kickoff, Steamboat's Jay Hanley made his way to the Sailors' 33-yard line with 17 seconds left in the game.

Hinder took the snap, rolled out to the left and heaved the pigskin 30 yards in the air, as the ball and Eagle Valley's hopes came down into Hammond's arms.

"We said in the huddle we are winning this game right now. This isn't going to overtime. We're going to win it right now," said Hammond, who finished the game with four touchdowns. "We just knew we had to do it."

The last play was a shining example of the Sailors' new offense.

Running out of the "pistol" formation - with Hinder two yards behind the center and the tailback two yards behind him - Steamboat put together its most potent offensive attack of the season.

The Sailors, who struggled on the ground averaging 2.9 yards a carry, saw three players rush for a combined 250 yards, Hinder throw for another 134 and Hammond score two touchdowns on the ground and two through the air.

"We had some good things going on," Finch said. "There are parts of the offense we want to do better at but it was pretty nice. With these changes, we had the ability to get the ball in more guys hands and that's what we wanted to do."

Early in the game, Steamboat jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after Hammond scored from 7 yards out. The Devils followed with three first-half touchdowns thanks to good field position. None of the Devils' first-half scoring drives covered more than 25 yards.

Add in an Alex Woods nine-yard touchdown catch from Hinder and Steamboat went into halftime down once again, 19-14.

Hammond scored two more touchdowns - one on a three-yard run and the other on a 46-yard touchdown reception - to put Steamboat up 27-19 before the wild last minute of play.

The win gets the Sailors right back into the backyard fight known as the Western Slope League.

But maybe more importantly, it gives them the confidence on both sides of the ball they've been looking for since week one.

"This just gives us a huge boost," Hinder said. "We know we can run the ball. We know we can throw the ball and our defense played awesome. Now we know we've got heart."

Steamboat heads into a bye week before welcoming rival Moffat County to Gardner Field on Sept. 28.

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