Beginning a rivalry

Craig and Steamboat Springs face off in first gridiron match

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— Football has been a great American pastime for more than a century, and the game was the talk of Northwest Colorado by 1909.

Dan Davidson at the Museum of Northwest Colorado recently researched the history of the sport, and uncovered the facts and scores behind the first game played between Craig and Steamboat Springs.

Moffat County was a part of Routt County until they split in 1911, but by then a county champion was already declared following a game in 1910.

An article in the Routt County Courier published Dec. 9, 1909, said that at that point in its history, Craig had never seen a football game.

Meeker challenged Craig to a football game late in 1909, but the chance of snow caused the game to be tentatively scheduled for the following year.

Craig High School football enthusiasts responded, saying they would play Meeker, "even if the game had to be played on snowshoes and bobsleds."

Nearly a year passed before a game with Steamboat Springs was organized in mid-November 1910.

The Courier called the event, "A struggle for football supremacy," with the first game taking place in Steamboat Springs and a second to follow a week later in Craig.

The first football game played in Northwest Colorado took place Nov. 19, 1910, with Craig defeating Steamboat on a winning touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock.

"The football elevens" displayed "hard tackling, great interference and brilliant football," the newspaper declared.

"Every inch of ground was stubbornly contested," with Steamboat's boys outplaying Craig by effectively using the forward pass.

The Steamboat coach was a Nebraska University man "who understood the game," the Courier reported.

Craig won the coin toss and chose to defend the west goal, putting the wind behind the team.

G. Paul Pitt, Leon Breeze, Ted McCandless and Lige Ratcliff formed a front line that could not be penetrated by Steamboat players. And the speed of Craig's Bill White and Rodney Tucker made the eastern valley team "powerless," reports said.

Craig quarterback Tuttle signaled for an end run and White responded with a good gain.

With 15 seconds left on the clock, Tuttle kept the ball and scored from 25 yards out thanks to "excellent interference" by his blockers.

Extra point attempts were not yet introduced to the sport, and the newspaper reports a final score of 10-5 in Craig's favor, apparently giving 5 points for a touchdown.

Highlights included George Ranney, a below average weight player, "smashing the line with the vigor of a giant."

The Craig team displayed, "lightning formations and whirlwind end runs," the reporter said.

In an unusual substitution, the Craig janitor played for a time in place of Gooding at right tackle.

The first game gave Craig a 5-pound weight advantage against Steamboat players, but for game two, Steamboat added several, "experienced and heavy players."

The second game, held Nov. 26, 1910, in Craig, included more kicking and trick plays by both teams.

Craig was once again victorious, using "superior speed and teamwork" to defeat Steamboat by a score of 8-0.

Craig scored in the first half, (6 points awarded this game, and a new rule dividing the game into halves was observed,) when White carried the ball 8 yards to the end zone after Tuttle got the team close with a 15-yard run from the 20 yard line.

A snowstorm prevented Craig from scoring more points in the second half, the Courier said.

A punt by Steamboat was blocked by Ratcliff and ended up behind the goal line, with a safety being awarded to the Craig team.

Big plays included a 40-yard run by Tucker, the longest of the day, and blocking by McCandless that "opened holes in the Steamboat line."

Post-game activities included a banquet held at the Webb Hotel for the Craig team put on by Professor William Mason with toastmaster W.H. Duff.

The museum photograph caption proclaims, "The Champion Craig High School Football Team of 1910."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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