Steamboat Springs High School players Skylar Kauf and Billy Clark go for the ball during football practice Wednesday afternoon at the high school.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School players Skylar Kauf and Billy Clark go for the ball during football practice Wednesday afternoon at the high school.

Steamboat Springs football team gears up for new season

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— Ben Custer’s prologue on the 2012 Steamboat Springs High School football team’s season started out as expected.

It was chock-full of cliches seemingly torn from the pages of Sports Vernacular 101.

“We’re a family.” “We’ve put in the work.” And the often-used but never-really-appreciated “one game at a time.”

But ask Custer about what the past two years have been like, and the tone distinctly changes. The cliches stop.

A few deep breaths and tension-filled forearms tell just how tough it’s been.

Steamboat hasn’t won a football game in two years, a string of 21 games. For a player like Custer — who was forced into action his sophomore year — this isn’t just about his senior year.

It’s about erasing the two previous ones.

“Oh gosh,” Custer said, trying to find the right words. “I don’t know. The last few years have been miserable. I hate losing. I hate it more than anything. It’s really hard. It makes life hard. But we have a good year coming. We can look at the past, but we’d rather look at the future.”

Custer’s words don’t seem to fall on deaf ears. There was a sense among the dozen seniors — six to eight of whom had to be forced into action their sophomore years — that the pain of the past two seasons will lead to good things this year.

Start with the seniors. After two wishy-washy classes — last season, three seniors played — this year’s group has 12 seniors.

Christian Ramirez starts his third year at quarterback. He also has returning skill position players in Custer (running back), Skyler Kauf (wide receiver) and Michael Yost (wide receiver).

Add in potential all-league performer middle linebacker Mike Lekarczyk and there is reason for optimism.

“Physically and mentally, they’ve morphed into young men,” Steamboat coach Lonn Clementson said. “This (senior) class had to shoulder the load for two years. When you’re not ready for that, you go into survival mode or you freeze. But they did what they could the last two years.”

Initially, the schedule looks much kinder this season. The team begins play with a very winnable game at 7 p.m. Friday at Eagle Valley.

In the always tough Western Slope League — where Palisade, Moffat County, Rifle and Glenwood Springs are expected to compete for the top spot — Steamboat could find itself in the thick of things.

“I have a lot of confidence,” Lekarczyk said. “People can say what they want to say, but we know our confidence and ability.”

Clementson pointed to finding consistency each possession. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

What is clear is this team is much more talented and deeper than in years past.

Will that lead to a win?

“Absolutely,” Clementson said. “I’m confident we’re going to win football games. I won’t tell you how many, but we’re going to win football games.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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