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Seventh-graders learn fundamentals

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— Seventh grade is the first exposure most Steamboat Springs players have to 11-man football, and coach Kevin Morris said it’s always interesting to see how they respond.

This year, the seventh grade — with a roster near 30 players — finished 6-2.

“The highlight for me, personally, is to watch the kids get better as the year progresses,” said Morris, who worked alongside John St. George. “It’s fun to watch them become a team.”

Before seventh grade, Steam–boat football players can play eight-man tackle football, but they have limited, if any, exposure to 11-man action, so there are lessons to be taught and learned.

“The biggest hurdle I found with these kids is actually getting them to commit themselves and their bodies to be football players,” Morris said. “Contact is part of the game. Coming in, they all think they are (NFL linebacker) Ray Lewis and are going to light people up, but that’s not the case.”

Steamboat opened with Craig and got blown out. The players broke down film with the coaches and corrected the mistakes in one practice before defeating Granby.

“Our group was fantastic,” Morris said.

The Sailors did not lose again until the season finale against the Bulldogs, but the second game against Craig went much different than the first, Morris said.

“It was a very close game,” he said. “We were down 16-12 with five minutes left. They turned the ball over on the 50. Unfortunately, we turned it right back over and they went down and scored and made it 22-12. I thought we were going to go into that last game and win. I was expecting them to win.”

In middle school, the football games are fun, but they aren’t nearly as important as practice, where most of the work gets done. Morris said the team worked on blocking, tackling and fundamentals such as running the ball.

“When the season started, I had maybe eight plays,” he said. “We were a running football team. Then, we tried to institute a little bit of the high school offense as we got better.”

Morris shares the same philosophy as eighth-grade coach Daren Mangiaracina: They are responsible for instilling a passion for football that carries over into high school.

“We are trying to do our part,” he said. “We believe in the whole feeder system philosophy.”

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com