Steamboat's Austin Hinder, right, runs to score a touchdown as Jack Spady, center, helps him on his way Sept. 25 while playing Eagle Valley in Gypsum. Steamboat won last week, 42-12, and faces a battle at home tonight against Palisade.

Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily

Steamboat's Austin Hinder, right, runs to score a touchdown as Jack Spady, center, helps him on his way Sept. 25 while playing Eagle Valley in Gypsum. Steamboat won last week, 42-12, and faces a battle at home tonight against Palisade.

Sailors football to battle for league supremacy

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If you go

What: Steamboat football vs. Palisade

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Gardner Field

Before the game: The Steamboat Springs High School Spirit Club hosts a tailgate party from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the high school parking lot. There will be free hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks sponsored by Wells Fargo, Steamboat Blueprint and Repro Graphics. Come support the Sailors.

2009 SSHS statistics

Steamboat

First Downs: 53

Rushes-Yards: 90-500

Comp-Att-Int: 60-103-3

Yards Passing: 750

Total Yards: 1,250

Punts-Avg.: 10-34

Fumbles-lost: 5-3

Penalties-Yards : 25-231

Opponent:

First Downs: 547

Rushes-Yards: 110-352

Comp-Att-Int: 46-89-9

Yards Passing: 626

Total Yards: 978

Punts-Avg.: 17-32

Fumbles-lost: 8-5

Penalties-Yards : 9-324

Score by Quarters

Opponent: 07-13-06-40-66

Steamboat: 54-57-25-32-168

- Rushing

Connor Landusky 13-49; Austin Hinder 28-207, 4 TD; Dylan Pivarnik 8-32; Jake Miller 1-(-1); Joe Dover 28-217, 4 TD; Michael Savory 4-11; Evan Hornstein 3-31, 1 TD; Tyler Samlowski 5-18, 1 TD.

- Passing

Hinder 56-91-2, 734 yards, 11 TD; Miller 1-2-1, 8 yards;

Savory 3-10-0, 8 yards.

- Receiving

Jack Verploeg 10-86, 1 TD; Jack Spady 19-313, 5 TD; Cody Harris 8-49, 1 TD;

Pivarnik 8-123, 3 TD; Bryce Mayo 2-19; Landusky 2-17; Dover 10-123, 1 TD; Sam Robards 1-8; Jackson Coe 1-6.

— When Palisade High School football coach John Arledge looks at last season, the importance of one regular season game jumps out.

Glenwood Springs and Palisade played a game that had a profound affect on the rest of the 2008 season.

On that October day in Grand Junction, No. 2 Glenwood upended No. 1 Palisade, 29-22. The Demons went on to earn the No. 1 overall playoff seed and a state championship. That loss, Palisade's only of the regular season, gave the Bulldogs a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, where they lost on a last-second field goal to D'Evelyn in the first round.

The scenario is eerily similar to a 7 p.m. showdown today between Palisade and Steamboat Springs at Gardner Field.

Both teams are considered an echelon above the rest of the Western Slope League this season. Each has title aspirations, and while today's game won't determine a whole season, a win could cement an easier road to a potential golden ball in December.

"Last year, if we would have won the league, we probably would have played a team we would have beat by 40," Arledge said. "We were probably one of the top four teams last year. But we got seeded sixth or seventh because we weren't a conference champion.

"For us this is a great indicator of where we stand. It's a litmus test. If we beat Steamboat, we can compete with anybody. They're saying the same thing. 'Beat Palisade, and we can beat anybody down the road.'"

There's always intrigue in a Palisade (3-2 overall, 2-0 in league play) and Steamboat game. The winner will take control of the league, position itself as a potential top seed in the playoffs and walk away as the team to beat in Class 3A.

And they couldn't be two more different football teams.

Palisade is and always has been a bruising, beat-opponents-up type of team. Steamboat (4-0, 3-0) brings a finesse offense that can score in a hurry.

"Like black and white," Arledge said. "It's different kinds of kids, different kinds of programs. They're a big-play offense, we're methodical and grind it out. It's still football, but it's just two different looks."

Long history

The series has been lopsided the past couple of seasons. Save for a Steamboat win three years ago in Palisade, the Bulldogs have had their way with the Sailors the past two seasons.

Two years ago, Palisade turned six Steamboat turnovers into a 28-10 win. Last season, Steamboat trailed, 16-0, less than four minutes into the game and 25-0 at halftime.

In fact, no Sailors player on the varsity team has tasted victory against a Palisade football team in high school.

"The worst memory was last year," said Steamboat's Joe Dover, who has scored the first time he's touched the ball in the past two games. "It was kind of like quicksand. No matter what we did, no matter how we did it, we just couldn't fight our way back into the game. Everything they did seemed to go right, and everything we did seemed to go wrong. It was painful and hard."

"It comes down to speed, and more so this game, just general toughness," Sailors lineman Carl Steele said.

"We've been soft against Palisade for some reason. This year that's got to change."

A common thread in Steamboat losses to Palisade has been Steamboat's inability to run the ball - and slow starts.

Sailors coach Aaron Finch said those are important but maybe not as important as which team takes better care of the ball.

In Palisade's opening two losses, the team turned the ball over five times in its first game and had a turnover for a touchdown in the second game. In its two losses last year, Palisade turned the ball over eight times.

Steamboat has had seven turnovers against Palisade the past two seasons, but it's starting offense has been careful with the ball this season, having committed just three turnovers.

Still, the biggest factor - and where things likely will be decided tonight - might be which style of football can prevail.

"We've been blessed this season with big plays early," Finch said. "I think the issue for us is to be patient. We're used to getting up early. This game isn't going to be over at halftime. Against good teams like Palisade, that's not going to happen."

"It's going to be won in the fourth quarter by one of us," Arledge said. "Whoever is in better shape, performs better in key situations. It's not going to come down to one single play. It's a great test for our kids on the road to play a team that really wants it."

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