As close as it can get |

As close as it can get

Sailors stop Bulldogs at goal line in one-point win

David Pressgrove

One inch.

For Moffat County football players, it’s a distance that will conjure up nightmares; for Steamboat Springs players it’s a distance that equals pure bliss.

The Sailors stopped Bulldog quarterback Derek Duran one inch short of the goal line as he went for two points in double overtime. The stop clinched a 24-23 victory for the Sailors.

It was Steamboat coach Aaron Finch’s greatest win of his two-year career as head coach.

“It was just a great high school football game,” Finch said after jumping up and down in the middle of his team after the win. “We sure don’t win football games by much, but we win.”

The game was about as close as its last play. The final score is hardly indicative of the defensively dominated game. Neither offense ran the ball for more than 100 yards. If it weren’t for a 49-yard halfback pass from Moffat junior Andrew Drake to senior Daniel Cramblett in the second quarter, no team would have passed for more than 100 yards.

“Both teams played well,” Moffat coach Kip Hafey said. “It’s one of those games where both team deserved to win, but you have to have a loser.”

Moffat outscored the Sailors, 10-3, in the first half; the Sailors earned a 7-0 advantage in the second half.

“We’re a second-half team,” said Steamboat junior Westin Cofer, who started the second half with two consecutive 10-yard runs. Those 20 yards were three less than the Sailors earned on the ground all first half.

Add overtime to the Sailor’s resume of success now.

In overtime, each team gets the ball on the 10-yard line and four downs to score. Moffat had the ball first, and on third down, Drake scooted through the line for a touchdown, and the extra point was good.

Junior quarterback Tanner Stillwell found senior Walker Hammond for an 8-yard catch and run on Steamboat’s second play from scrimmage to answer the Bulldogs. The kick was good to start the second overtime.

Steamboat started with the ball the second time, and in the second down, Cofer leaped over the line into the end zone.

“They had went for my legs before, so I wanted to get up,” he said. “You have to give that one to the line.”

The kick was good to make it 24-17.

After a loss of three and a dropped pass, the Bulldogs had 3 and 13 when Duran found a wide-open Drake in the right side of the end zone.

Hafey called a time out, and the entire stadium knew what was next.

The Bulldogs have been aggressive on offense all year. As the old adage says, “go for the win at home and the tie on the road.” They were going for it.

Duran went right, faking a handoff to fullback JT Haddan and then cut for the end zone.

Several Steamboat defenders met him right at the goal, and as Duran went down, he reached out but came up about as close as he could without scoring.

“If we could have just got one more guy,” Bulldog center junior Blake Kawcak said. “We missed one guy blitzing.”

Cofer knew what was coming from his linebacker position.

“They loved to roll out all night,” he said. “We knew he’d roll somewhere.”

It was probably not much of a surprise to anybody that Duran was going to get the ball.

He had created plays all night.

He led all rushers with 68 yards.

“What hurt us was the athleticism of Duran,” Finch said.

Hafey would do the same thing if he had it to do all over again.

“None,” he said when asked whether he had any regret for going for it.

“Hafey had a lot of guts,” Finch said. “I respect him for making that call.”

After all of the excitement in the two overtimes, the 10-10 tie in regulation is just a footnote.

Field position and turnovers made the difference in each half.

The Sailors fumbled twice in the first half; the Bulldogs fumbled once in the second half.

Moffat converted one of the fumbles into their first score, a 22-yard field goal from junior Cory Pike at 7:19 remaining in the first quarter.

Duran fumbled the ball with 11:04 remaining in the fourth quarter on Moffat’s 14-yard line. On third and goal from the 1-yard line, Stillwell found the end zone. That tied the game at 10s.

The Bulldogs were up 10-0 after Duran capped a seven-play, 65-yard drive in the second quarter. The aforementioned 49-yard halfback pass set up that touchdown from Drake to Cramblett.

The Sailors put together their first significant drive of the game at the end of the first half. Stillwell hit senior Scott Stanko for 14 yards and then senior Jack Serhant for 16 yards to set up a 40-yard field goal for sophomore Ben Deline. The kick was good to put the Sailors on the board before the half, 10-3.

In the second half, the Bulldogs had six plays on offense in the third quarter. After Steamboat tied it up at 10s, Moffat received the ball on Steamboat’s 16-yard line with 2:35 remaining. Bulldogs senior Cass Thompson made a 16-yard reception and was hit after he went out of bounds for a 15-yard personal foul. That gave Moffat the ball on Steamboat’s 42 with 1:41 remaining. Duran converted a first down on fourth-and-one at Steamboat’s 32.

Then the Steamboat defense stopped backpedaling. On second and 10, several defensive lineman corralled Duran for a 10-yard loss. The Bulldogs couldn’t recover, and the game went into overtime.

“(Steamboat) pressured our quarterback all night,” Hafey said. “We ended up running the ball more.”

The Sailors held Duran for less than 100 yards passing for the first time this year. He finished 9-22 for 88 yards.

“Our defense keeps getting better,” Finch said. “Moffat’s defense was very good, as well. We were making up plays on the fly because we couldn’t do the things we wanted to.”

The Bulldogs held sophomore Jay Hanley to 52 yards on 16 rushes.

Steamboat came out of the Palisade-Rifle-Moffat part of their schedule 2-1. Usually in the Western Slope League, that means a good chance for the playoffs. Moffat still has Palisade and Rifle to go.

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