Steamboat Springs Maybe there was plenty of blame to go around, but there certainly were plenty of people ready to take it.
Steamboat Springs squandered back-to-back opportunities deep in Windsor territory to open Saturday afternoon’s Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game, turning the ball over on downs first after driving to the 13-yard line and then at the 7 one drive later.
“It was mainly my fault,” senior quarterback Austin Hinder said. “Everyone else was doing their jobs, but I kept missing throws.”
“Those were on me,” coach Aaron Finch countered. “Getting down that close and not scoring is always frustrating. I wasn’t getting the job done in the first quarter.”
Whatever ailed Steamboat early, the team found a cure, and for much of the rest of the afternoon, the Sailors were able to take advantage of Windsor’s many gaffes en route to a 31-7 second-round victory in the Class 3A state football playoffs.
Steamboat advanced to next weekend’s semifinals, a game against tournament No. 1 seed Pueblo Central, and the squad owes plenty of thanks to Windsor.
The Wizards turned the ball over four times, and eventually those mistakes paved the way for enough Steamboat points to put the game out of reach.
The Sailors defense started to pay off after the offense again failed to convert on fourth down in the second quarter, missing a fourth-and-6 opportunity at the 16-yard line.
One play later, Steamboat defenders swarmed around Windsor quarterback Trevor Okamoto.
He threw the ball up to avoid a sack and right into the hands of Steamboat senior Jack Spady, who scooped it up just a few inches off the turf.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I had it at first,” Spady said. “I just put my hands down, and when I knew I had it, I tried to go forward.”
That set the Sailors up at the 22-yard line, and Hinder found Spady wide open two plays later for a touchdown and the team’s first lead of the game.
Steamboat took a 17-7 lead when Peter Schuette knocked home a 21-yard field goal. That drive was kept alive thanks to a Windsor defensive holding penalty after Hinder was sacked on a third-and-8.
“It was very frustrating for me,” Windsor’s Conner Glenn said about the costly mistakes. “This whole year, we never had problems putting points up on the board. Today was tough, but that’s football.”
Field position proved the deciding factor in Saturday’s game, and thanks to the turnovers, Steamboat again and again was given a short field to work with.
For the game, Windsor’s average starting field position was its own 25-yard line. Steamboat’s, meanwhile, was Windsor’s 43-yard line.
It was a trend that came partly because of the fourth-down follies Hinder and Finch were in such a rush to apologize for.
The Sailors whiffed at fourth-down conversion attempts twice more in the second half and five times in the game.
It kept the team from putting the game away early, but not all the side effects were terrible.
It repeatedly left Windsor stranded what seemed like miles from the goal line.
“Field position definitely played a role,” Windsor coach Chris Jones said. “Field position turnovers, penalties — they’re all part of the game. It’s part of life’s adversity.”
The trend continued in the second half. A Steamboat punt sailed through the hands of the Windsor return man. Schuette jumped on it to take possession at the 11-yard line.
One play later, Hinder rushed in from 11 yards out for a 24-7 lead.
By that point, he was finished apologizing.
“On that run, I took a quick drop back to get the linebackers to back off. Then I saw the dog and I thought he was going to get me, so I said, ‘I got to go,’” Hinder said. “Connor Landusky and my center, Tanner Anderson, made a perfect block on their mike linebacker.”