With 1979 state champs watching, Steamboat blanks Rifle | PostIndependent.com

With 1979 state champs watching, Steamboat blanks Rifle

Luke GrahamSteamboat Pilot & Today Post IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Rifle High School senior Ty Lenard returns the ball during Friday night's game against Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado – With the watchful eyes of members of the 1979 Steamboat Springs High School football team in attendance – the last time Steamboat won a football title – the current Steamboat team made its case Friday as the team to beat for this year’s crown.Although Steamboat wasn’t as crisp as it has been this year, Steamboat and senior all-everything playmaker Joe Dover did all they could to cement themselves as the top team in Class 3A with a 34-0 win against Rifle on Friday. “They were at the game? That’s pretty sweet,” Dover said. “We didn’t know that, but that was a good game for them to watch. We’d like to replicate what they did in 1979. We want to bring the golden ball back. We have the team to do it, but we have to get better.”One player who seems to be doing better, is Dover. The senior, after battling offseason back surgery and a pulled hamstring, declared himself 100 percent Friday night. And boy, did he ever show it. Dover scored four touchdowns and showed the playmaking ability that makes this Steamboat team so dangerous. After Steamboat (6-0 overall, 5-0 in the Western Slope League) had taken a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 7-yard pass from Austin Hinder to Jack Spady, Dover took over. He caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hinder and then returned and interception 83 yards to close out the half, giving the Sailors a 21-0 lead. In the second half, Dover reeled off runs of 57 and 52 yards to give Steamboat the final advantage. “He does OK,” Steamboat coach Aaron Finch jokingly said of Dover, who had 12 carries for 165 yards. “He gets after it.” For Rifle, however, it was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. The Bears (2-4, 1-3) came out with the perfect game plan to slow down the Sailors. Playing a ball-controlled type of offense and a blitzing defense, Rifle won the first half on paper, but not the scoreboard. In the first half Rifle ran 33 plays to Steamboat’s 18, and outgained the Sailors 121 to 119. Steamboat’s potent offense only had three offensive possessions in the first half, but scored on two those, including the 23-yard touchdown pass to Dover on 4th-and-goal. “We just had too many critical mistakes,” said Rifle coach Ryan Sulkowski, whose team had 8 penalties for 74 yards in the first half and 12 penalties for 114 yards in the game. “We must be the most penalized team in the country. We made our own mistakes and dug our own hole. There were some things I think we could have controlled better.”Rifle next plays Glenwood Springs, while Steamboat plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Battle Mountain. lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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