Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Most fall prep teams have reached the halfway point of their seasons, and it's safe to assume the direction of each squad.
The second half of a season, like the second half a football game, is when teams can earn their stripes. So here's a look around Routt County as high school sports enter October.
- Top spot and a huge nod of the cap to the Steamboat Springs High School football team. Steamboat beat Palisade 28-21 on Friday, marking the team's first significant win in more than two years. Sure, the Sailors have made the playoffs the past two years, but as coach Aaron Finch said after the game, they did that by beating the teams they were supposed to beat. Palisade's a big notch on any team's belt, and the win legitimizes Steamboat as a top-three team in Class 3A. For any doubters about Austin Hinder, consider this fact: The Cal commit completed 23 of 28 passes Friday. Of his five incomplete passes, one was dropped and one was thrown away. That leaves three passes that found the turf all night. If he's in a groove, the opposition can pack up and call it a night.
- Maybe equally impressive was the Steamboat volleyball team. Steamboat swept through Delta and Palisade during the weekend without breaking a sweat. The team is just a game behind Eagle Valley in the race for a Western Slope League title. Most impressive seems to be the team's chemistry. There are often teams on which some personalities don't mesh. This Sailors squad isn't one of them. Assuming the team can keep improving at the pace it has, an Oct. 17 date with Eagle Valley at home could amount to the game of the year.
- If you're looking for something fun to do on a Friday night, venture down to Oak Creek to watch Soroco play 8-man football. Not only is the game something different and interesting, but the Rams are pretty darn good. Coach David Bruner loves to open it up, fling the ball around and light up the scoreboard. Quarterback and linebacker Cody Miles is worth the price of admission. Bruner must feel like a child controlling Bo Jackson in Techmo Bowl with Miles behind center.
- Hayden football is going to be OK. Despite falling, 20-0, to Paonia on Friday in the team's league opener, Hayden has a lot of the pieces in place. With few returning starters, Hayden was expected to be rebuilding. But if the team could just punch it in the end zone - an inability that's a sign of a young team - the Tigers could be 5-0 right now. The ship is a little off course, but it's just going to take one game to get it righted.
- Don't sleep on the Steamboat Springs boys soccer team. With a huge win at Eagle Valley on Friday, Steamboat threw its hat into the ring of Western Slope League contention. The problem, if you call it that, has been finding goal scorers. The team has a return trip to Battle Mountain - the current league leader - on the horizon and welcomes back Eagle Valley for a home game. If the Sailors can notch victories in both those contests, a league title is right there.