MCHS, Steamboat Springs continue gridiron rivalry tonight

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At a glance

A quick look at Moffat County High School:

Coach: Kip Hafey

2009 record: 5-2 (2-1 on the road)

Coach's keys to the game

• Finish in the red zone.

• Hold on to the ball, and take it away from Steamboat

At a glance

A quick look at Steamboat Springs High School:

Coach: Aaron Finch

2009 record: 7-0 (4-0 at home)

Coach's keys to victory

• Ball control. The Sailors can't fumble and allow Moffat County's offense to get moving.

• Keep the Bulldogs offense off the field.

It's not just one football team versus another.

This is blue versus red.

This is Bulldogs versus Sailors.

This is another installment of one of the Western Slope League's biggest rivalry.

The Moffat County High School boys varsity football team will look to be triumphant at 7 p.m. today when it faces Steamboat Springs High School in Steamboat.

The importance of the rivalry wasn't lost on Kip Hafey, Moffat County's head coach.

"It's one of the most exciting things about sports," Hafey said. "Rivalry games are fun for everybody."

Aaron Finch, Steamboat Springs' head coach, said past performances and records don't matter when the Sailors face the Bulldogs.

"It doesn't matter who has this touted player, or that touted player," Finch said. "In rivalry games, it all goes out the window."

The Moffat County-Steamboat game is always an event, Finch said.

"This is always a big game," Finch said. "When we get our schedule for the year, we always look to see when and where this game is."

Finch said familiarity has fueled the rivalry.

"Some of these kids have been competing since they were mites in hockey, little league and junior high," he said. "They've been playing against each other for some time."

Moffat County didn't need any extra motivation for tonight's game said James Neton, the Bulldogs defensive backs coach.

"It's the closest thing we have to a cross-town rival," he said. "We don't really have to play up in practice the Steamboat-Moffat County rivalry. It's there, and it is what it is. The kids all know it and are excited for it."

Perhaps more important than the rivalry is the high-caliber play expected from the Sailors (7-0) and the Bulldogs (5-2).

"This is a good match-up," Hafey said. "Two good football teams going at it, this is what high school football is all about."

SSHS on offense

In Austin Hinder, Steamboat Springs has one of the Western Slope League's best players.

The senior quarterback has thrown for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns with two interceptions.

Steamboat Springs also can run the ball with Joe Dover, who has amassed 645 yards on 61 carries for 12 touchdowns.

Dover also has been one of Hinder's favorite targets, collecting 232 yards with 19 catches.

Neton said Moffat County's secondary can't let any of Steamboat's receivers slip through the cracks.

"We have our basic coverages we're going to run," he said. "But we really need to keep track of their quarterback and receivers."

Facing Steamboat won't make the coach change everything, though.

"It's really nothing different, but we really need a good game from our defensive backs," he said. "This is our biggest challenge so far this year for our secondary and linebackers."

MCHS on offense

"We need to execute," Hafey said. "We need to eliminate our mistakes and play to the last whistle."

Hafey said six different running backs will see action against the Sailors, and those backs should test the Sailors defense, Finch said.

"Between (Pablo) Salcido and (Jasen) Kettle, they have two different approaches," he said. "Pablo is a straight-ahead kind of runner, and Jasen is a tremendous athlete who uses his speed and quickness. We'll need to contain them."

Moffat County's strength lies in numbers, especially in the backfield.

Utilizing the Wing-T offense, defenders have problems picking up which way and which carrier Moffat County is using.

Kettle has been dynamic when on the field.

The speedy senior has rushed 25 times for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Salcido has 69 carries, good for 334 yards and four touchdowns - all team highs.

Sophomores Mason Updike (33 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns) and Braeden Sullivan (40 carries for 306 yards) have proved to be pleasant surprises, and senior Nathan Tomlin has netted himself 44 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Steamboat isn't the only team with an accomplished quarterback under center.

Matt Linsacum has provided the leadership expected of a two-year starter and has brought some offense along, too.

Through the air, Linsacum has thrown seven touchdowns to five different receivers.

In the past two games, Oct. 2 against Delta and homecoming against Eagle Valley, Linsacum has shown that when no options are open down the field, his legs can carry the team to a first down.

On the season, Linsacum has legged out 39 carries for 101 yards and three touchdowns.

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com.

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