Drop to 2A possible for Steamboat football | SteamboatToday.com

Drop to 2A possible for Steamboat football

Lonn Clementson tries his best not to think about it — not until Steamboat Springs High School Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe delivers the news in person, once and for all.

He's not alone among local high school football coaches, either. The Colorado High School Activities Association on Tuesday released its preliminary plan for dividing the state's football programs into classifications and leagues for the 2016 and 2017 football seasons. Steamboat, Soroco and Hayden coaches found themselves crossing fingers and hoping there are no substantial revisions as the plan moves toward being finalized.

For Clementson and his Steamboat football team, the plan drops the Sailors to Class 2A and into a league with regional rivals such as Moffat County and Aspen.

Soroco and Hayden, meanwhile, would be together in a league featuring much more favorable foes than they've dealt with in recent years.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Clementson said. "We would be playing more like competition, which would make it all more fun and competitive for everyone, but I'll believe it when I see it."

Drop down

The change would be seismic for Steamboat. The preliminary plans lump it into a 2A league with Moffat County, Aspen, Basalt, Coal Ridge and Roaring Fork.

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The Sailors could hardly expect to walk to a title in the league. They lost this season against Moffat, 27-0, to open the season. But, the team's chances of competing would immediately improve upon what they've seen in a 3A league with perennial — recently, anyway — state title contenders such as Delta, Palisade and Rifle.

Steamboat hasn't been competitive with those schools, being outscored 153-3 against that trio this season. In Clementson's eyes, fewer lopsided games such as those mean more fun, more fun means more kids will be willing to play and more kids willing to play mean a stronger program.

"We're excited about it," he said. "It makes it really exciting going into our offseason. It's a great time right now to be in the Sailors' football program."

It's a great time unless something changes, anyway.

Close and competitive

Hayden and Soroco are also rooting for the proposed changes to stick.

Leagues and classifications are reset every two years, and both the Tigers and the Rams are eager to ditch the status quo, which has forced them, stuck in a five-team league, into awkward games and long road trips.

Soroco, for instance, particularly struggled with the small league when it came to filling the traditional nine-game schedule. Only four of those slots were league games. Other leagues had as many as eight teams, which limited flexibility for teams to schedule outside their league.

The Rams tried to cope by playing junior varsity opponents and scheduling home-and-home series with league foes, a rarity in football. Even with all that, they still only had eight games on the schedule.

“Only having eight games really hurts you at the end of the season when they're looking at your ratings for the playoffs," coach Dick Dudas said. "This could really relieve the pressure on teams from smaller leagues."

It would all change with the new proposed league, which would include the Tigers and Rams, as well as West Grand, Plateau Valley, Rangely and Gilpin County.

No 8-man league in the state would have more than seven teams, and most would have six, meaning it would be easier to fill the schedule.

"It would be a good thing for us," Hayden coach Ryan Wilkie said.

Scheduling issues forced his squad to play four of the state's top-10 ranked teams this season, a nobel endeavor, but a situation he said was less-than-ideal with Hayden's young team.

"We had the fifth-toughest schedule in 8-man football this year," Wilkie said. "Being as young as we were, that kind of schedule makes it tough to compete and build confidence, so this could really help us."

Despite their optimism, all three coaches were reluctant to get too excited. The alignments can still undergo major changes, and local teams could find themselves facing some of the same troubles they've struggled with in recent seasons.

So, as exciting as the prospects may be, they're intent on not quite believing any of it until they see it.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Proposed leagues

Class 2A Conference F

Aspen

Basalt

Coal Ridge

Moffat County

Roaring Fork

Steamboat Springs

8-man Northwest Conference

Hayden

Gilpin County

Plateau Valley

Rangely

Soroco

West Grand