Airing it out
September 5, 2001
Steamboat Springs — The Sailors expect to have their hands full as they try to stop Salida’s passing attack in game two of the regular season Friday.
If Salida’s opener last week against Rifle is any indication of this week’s game plan, the Spartans should be doing lots of throwing.
Last week, Spartans quarterback Mitch Curran completed 18 of 43 passes for 250 yards. Although the Spartans lost 42-12 to the school the Rocky Mountain News ranked as the No. 2 3A team in the state, Sailors coach Mark Drake is worried about their passing game.
“It’s a wide-open throwing game,” Drake said. “They put the ball in the air a lot. We need to be prepared for that.”
Throughout practice this week, Drake has been setting up his defense for Salida’s air assault, though he said it is difficult to do.
With a team that tends to stay on the ground, Drake said his biggest problem is having his scout team follow Salida’s downfield patterns.
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Sailors linebacker Gaspar Perricone said the Spartans’ biggest weapon is a short pass to the outside, which the scout team has executed in practice.
“We moved some people out for pass coverage and we’ve practiced man-on-man coverage,” said Perricone, the team’s leading tackler. “I’m looking forward to stopping them.”
The Spartans whom the Sailors’ secondary most want to stop are receiver Aaron Gray and running back John Snyder.
Against Rifle, Gray was the Spartans’ lone scorer with a pair of touchdown catches, one of which was a 41-yard pass from Curran.
Gray finished the game with 99 receiving yards.
Drake pointed to running back Josh Hightower as another key player in the Spartans’ offense. Hightower is the team’s leading rusher.
While Curran completed 18 of his 43 passes against Rifle, the Salida offense gave up three interceptions to Rifle.
“Most of the teams in the league are running (teams). (Salida) is one of the few teams that has a passing game,” Perricone said.
With a line that ranges from 190 to 230 pounds, Drake said he also looks for Salida to have a tough defense.
With a new coach leading them, the Spartans are hoping to improve from last year’s 0-9 record, which includes a 50-12 loss to the Sailors.
Coach Doug Cugen, who is returning from Grand Junction, has replaced Robert Sanders.
The Sailors’ heavy running game is a sharp contrast to the Spartans’ passing offense.
With a sore shoulder, Steamboat quarterback Tanner Barr threw only four passes for 13 yards in last week’s win over Middle Park.
But the offense did have a strong running game, picking up 309 yards on the ground against the Panthers.
Drake said the Sailors are looking to clean up their mistakes from last week, when they were penalized 10 times and committed two turnovers.
“After last week, I feel we need to improve on the basics,” he said.
For Drake, that means getting his players in better shape to prevent holding penalties and also making sure players are in position and holding on to the ball.