Steamboat football falls in opening round of playoffs | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat football falls in opening round of playoffs

Luke Graham

Jack Spady looks for the ball during Saturday's opening round Class 3A playoff game against Pueblo County. Despite a touchdown from Spady, the Sailors fell, 45-21.

— Playing on the road in the playoffs against a quality opponent is tough enough.

Add in some turnovers, the inability to run the ball or stop the run and a plethora of bad breaks, and the Steamboat Springs High School football team had little chance Saturday in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs, falling to Pueblo County, 45-21.

Steamboat fumbled the ball three times, gave up a return for a touchdown, produced minus 10 yards on the ground and allowed Pueblo County to rush for 424 yards. With the offense limited to throwing the ball, junior quarterback Austin Hinder was under pressure all day, completing just 9-of-26 passes.

“They get off the ball and get after you, and we’re kind of little up there. It’s hard to think of an offensive line in the playoffs smaller than us,” Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said. “It was frustrating because we didn’t come out and do what we do well. We had some guys open, and we couldn’t get it to them.”

When things started to spiral for the Sailors, there was little they could do.

It started going wrong in the first quarter. Pueblo County capitalized with Marshall Stout twice in the first quarter – the second one coming on a 78-yard touchdown run.

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Both touchdowns came after the Sailors went three-and-out.

Then, in an exchange that spoke to the type of day it was, Steamboat finally gained momentum midway through the second quarter.

After the Hornets had a punt return for a touchdown called back, Sailors senior Eric Bonner returned a fumble on an option 26 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Pueblo County’s Brett Avila brought the ball back 94 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 halftime lead.

“That was a huge play,” Finch said.

Steamboat finally put at least a little scare into Pueblo County in the third quarter. After the Hornets’ Eric Molina extended the lead to 31-7 with a 26-yard field goal, the Sailors got the big play they were looking for.

Hinder hit Jack Spady in the flats. Spady broke a tackle and followed the blocking of Alex Wood for a 68-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-14. The Sailors held the Hornets but went three-and-out on their next possession to squish any hope of a comeback.

“We only know how to play one way. That’s run the ball between the tackles and put pressure on the quarterback,” Pueblo County coach Jeff Wilson said. “I figured they’d get a big play on us, but we didn’t allow them to get three, four or five on us.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Pueblo County put the game out of reach with touchdown runs from Levi Martinez and Avila to make it 45-14.

Steamboat’s Fraser Egan scored from 7 yards out late in the fourth quarter to make the game 45-21.

“We just haven’t responded well when we’re down,” Finch said. “It started with our scrimmage against Grand Junction and then against Palisade and Glenwood. My main concern is the mental well-being and preparedness of our team. I haven’t done as good a job with this group.”

The loss ends Steamboat’s season and the high school careers of seniors Jasper Gantick, Bonner, Wood, Kevin Stokes, Mick Dierdorff, Keith West, Keith Curry and Lars Johnson.

For most of the seniors, this was the fourth time they made the playoffs – something that’s happened only one other time in Steamboat history.

“It’s a small group that came in with a lot of noise and turmoil,” Finch said. “We’ve ended up with a group of men that I love going to battle with. They’ve grown over the four years. We all dealt with adversity and handled it well.”

Game statistics

Steamboat Pueblo County

9 First Downs 16

17-(-10) Rushes-Yards 63-424

9-26-0 Comp-Att-Int 1-3-0

182 Yards Passing 17

172 Total Yards 441

7-36 Punts-Avg. 3-38

3-3 Fumbles-lost 2-2

3-15 Penalties-Yards 6-51

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Steamboat: 00-07-07-07-21

Pueblo County: 14-14-03-14-45

SCORING SUMMARY

First Quarter

PC 4:30, Marshall Stout 25 run. (Eric Molina kick).

PC 0:01, Stout 78 run. (Molina kick).

Second Quarter

PC 6:47, Stout 18 run. (Molina kick).

S 5:06, Eric Bonner 26 return. (Lars Johnson kick).

PC 4:51, Brett Avila 94 return. (Molina kick).

Third Quarter

PC 6:33, Molina 25 field goal.

S 6:13, Jack Spady 68 pass from Austin Hinder. (Johnson kick).

Fourth Quarter

PC 9:58, Levi Martinez 1 run. (Molina kick).

PC 9:10, Avila 5 run. (Molina kick).

S 3:25, Fraser Egan 7 run. (Johnson kick).

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

S: Hinder 8-(-32); Jasper Gantick 2-(-5); Egan 7-27, 1 TD.

PC: Mike Hasenack 22-142; Austin Wallingford 5-29; Martinez 9-16, 1 TD; Stout 14-189, 3 TD; Avila 4-16, 1 TD; Chad Helvey 1-(-4); Mitch Miller 2-4; Chris Rodgiguez 2-7; Austin Grabill 1-(-4); Jose Salas 3-29.

Passing

S: Hinder 9-26-0, 182 yards, 1 TD.

PC: Wallingford 1-3-0, 17 yards.

Receiving

S: Cody Harris 2-18; Alex Wood 3-67; Egan 2-(-3); Bonner 1-32; Spady 1-68, 1 TD.

PC: Martinez 1-17.