Steamboat Springs As far as Western Slope rugby goes, it doesn't get much bigger than Saturday's match between Steamboat and Vail.
The two longtime mountain rivals always are in the hunt for the Rocky Mountain League rugby title every year.
Add the fact that last year was the first year Steamboat dominated the series - going 3-0 - and Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said the 4 p.m. matchup at Gardner Field at Steamboat Springs High School holds key importance.
"This is always one of the biggest, if not the biggest, games of the year," said Hurley, whose green and orange will be playing its first league game of the year Saturday. "It sets the tone for the rest of season. If you lose, it's not the end of the world because you play everyone twice. Most teams aren't going to go through the season undefeated, but it's always a very important game."
Vail is coming off its first league game of the year, in which the team demolished Glenwood Springs. Steamboat - the reigning league champions - had a scrimmage with Boulder last weekend.
Hurley said the key will be to stick to the game plan and keep the ball moving. With an intense offseason workout regimen, Hurley said he'd be surprised if Steamboat wasn't the fitter team Saturday.
"I think we're potentially more skilled," he said, noting Charlie Pappas and Bjorn Utu are two players who will play big roles Saturday. "We have to keep our composure and keep our heads and make sure we stick to our game plan."
Coed team takes tourney
The Steamboat coed soccer team won the Grand Junction Coed Invitational during the weekend, going 4-0 in the process.
The team beat two teams from Grand Junction, a team from Littleton and a team from Winter Park.
In the championship game against Grand Junction, Steamboat won, 3-2, on a last-minute goal in double overtime.
"We knew we had a good team going in," team captain Mark Dudley said. "We were certainly hoping to win the whole thing."
Soccer meets up with Vail
The Steamboat Pacific men's soccer team plays Pepe's from Vail at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Christian Heritage School field.
Pepe's has been around for more than 10 years and is one of the top club teams in Colorado. The two teams were supposed to meet earlier in the year but the game was canceled because of bad weather.
Steamboat captain Danny Tebbenkamp expects it to be a good match, but he said Steamboat heads into the game as a bit of an unknown.
"We're itching to go against them," Tebbenkamp said. "We've been off the map for a while, so we want to see where we stand and let them know where we stand."
Tebbenkamp said the key for Steamboat will be firming up its attack inside 18 yards and finishing goals. If Steamboat can do that, Tebbenkamp said there's no reason the team should lose.
"We expect a W," he said. "We've been training pretty regularly, and I think we should be successful."