An official signals a fumble recovery by the Sailors to turn over the ball during the first half.

Photo by Matt Stensland

An official signals a fumble recovery by the Sailors to turn over the ball during the first half.

Defensive line helps propel Sailors defense

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— Darian Buelter will argue that each member of the Steamboat Springs High School football team’s defensive line weighs 190 pounds.

Of course, if the roster is taken into account, Buelter is listed at 195 pounds, Keenan Starbuck is listed at 185 pounds and Carl Steele is the big guy of the bunch, listed at a whopping 210 pounds.

But if anything has been proven this season, it’s that Buelter, Starbuck and Steele are main cogs in an underrated and dominating defense.

On Saturday, the defense did all it could in helping Steamboat beat Windsor, 31-7, in the Class 3A quarterfinals.

The win puts Steamboat in the semifinals for the first time since 2005. Steamboat will play at No. 1 seed Pueblo Central. A time and day have yet to be determined.

“This game especially, they had us outsized,” Steele said. “Our coach joked there may have been a steroid truck that tipped in Windsor, and they were the first on the scene. But we beat them with speed. That was our advantage in this case.”

It’s usually the advantage.

The Steamboat defense, a 3-5 front that relies on blitzes and discipline, was all it could be on Saturday. It’s a defense that takes advantage of the type of athletes Steamboat is known for.

Certainly, the coaches would love a couple of 270-pounders to clog up the middle, but the alternative isn’t bad in the slightest.

The Sailors limited the Wizards to 172 yards on offense. Take away Conner Glenn’s 80-yard touchdown early in the first quarter, and Windsor averaged just 1.8 yards per play.

“They were getting kids in the box and behind the line of scrimmage,” said Glenn, who came into the game as Class 3A’s third leading rusher. “They did a good job defensively. I give credit to their defense. They have a good defense.”

And when Steamboat coaches talk defense, it starts with the three seniors up front.

Watch them run to the line, and it’s hard not to notice that most of the skill position guys are bigger than them. In every game this season, they’ve been much smaller than the guys they face.

But they might be the most vital points of the defense.

Sailors defensive coordinator Lonn Clementson said the defense is built on levels. The three face constant double teams, and each has specific assignments. Essentially, when the linemen succeed, the linebackers and defensive backfield succeed, Clementson said.

Plus, it always helps when the three guys up front absolutely love the game.

“We just worked hard,” Starbuck said. “We just try to have fun. That’s what this game is about. If you’re not having fun, why even play?”

The defensive line set the tone early. On Windsor’s first offensive series, Steele took a Windsor lineman and tackled Glenn in the backfield for a 4-yard loss.

“It makes a statement for the day,” Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. “There is so much grit and heart up front. They’ll come out and hit you in the chin. But I love it when the skinny guys are getting after it like that.”

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