Pueblo Central becomes focus for Steamboat football | SteamboatToday.com

Pueblo Central becomes focus for Steamboat football

Steamboat Springs High School senior Keenan Starbuck wraps up Windsor High School’s Conner Glenn on Saturday as the Sailors beat the Wizards, 31-7, in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state playoffs.





Steamboat Springs High School senior Keenan Starbuck wraps up Windsor High School's Conner Glenn on Saturday as the Sailors beat the Wizards, 31-7, in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Joel Reichenberger

— Now it's official.

After the Steamboat Springs High School football team advanced to the semifinal round of the Class 3A state football playoffs Saturday afternoon, with a 31-7 victory at home against Windsor, the Sailors can talk about a trip to Pueblo.

With the matchup now a definite, Steamboat players can talk about facing Pueblo Central without offering an empty "one game at a time" disclaimer; they can think about it without feeling guilty and dream about it without worry.

Steamboat will get the chance to prove everything when it travels Saturday to play against undefeated Pueblo Central, the No. 1 seed in the 3A bracket.

"I've been thinking about them a little bit," senior Jack Spady said. "You can't get too far ahead of yourself, but we're going to be pumped for them next week."

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He's not alone, and in truth, some of the Sailors have been thinking about Pueblo for a few weeks already.

Most wouldn't admit as much until after the team's defense put the clamps on a powerful Windsor offense, and until senior Joe Dover put the game on ice with a 14-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.

The key word there is "most."

"To tell you the truth, what I'm nervous about is Pueblo," senior linebacker Mitch Lekar­czyk said Thursday, before the Windsor game.

There's plenty to be nervous about.

Pueblo Central and Steam­boat were two of the four Class 3A teams who entered the 16-team postseason tournament undefeated.

Neither has done anything to show its unblemished record was a fluke.

Steamboat failed to convert on five fourth-down opportunities deep in Windsor territory Saturday and still took a two-score lead into halftime, then expanded on that lead throughout the second half.

The defeat of Windsor came after a 24-13 first-round victory against Berthoud, in which the Sailors took a 24-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

Pueblo Central, meanwhile, thumped Steamboat rival Palisade, 34-0, in the first round, then beat on another Western Slope squad Saturday, blasting Delta, 34-7.

"I've been thinking about them since those brackets came out. I figured this game would be the game of the whole bracket," Dover said about the Wildcats. "We have to be tough. They're a tough team, a real good team, and we just have to man up. Every player has to do his job, and it will be a battle to the end."

Even before viewing any film, Steamboat knows — at least partially — what it has to do.

Senior quarterback Austin Hinder, for instance, is sure that he'll have to play better.

He said he was off his mark through much of Saturday's victory, and after the game, he acted stunned that his below-average, 52-percent completion rate was even that good.

"I was missing throws. I was trying to get things out too quick before they opened up," Hinder said. "I will fix that.

"Those little 20-yard drives we missed, we cannot miss those," he continued. "If we get a chance, we have to make it a touchdown."

Hinder didn't hesitate to credit Windsor for its defensive effort Saturday, calling the Wizards the toughest defense he'd ever seen.

Still, his expectations for the coming game, where a win would put the Sailors in the state championship bout, are unrivaled.

"In my mind, this is going to be the hardest game we've ever prepared for or ever seen," he said. "This has to be our best week of preparation ever."

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