Clash of the valley goes down tonight |

Clash of the valley goes down tonight

Josh Nichols

There’s no bell to paint like the Pueblo Centennial/Central game.

There’s no golden boot to pass on like the Wyoming/Colorado State contest.

The rivalry between Moffat County High School and Steamboat Springs is simply a classic clash of cross-valley rivals except this year.

The winner receives something more meaningful than an annual award they earn a trip to the playoffs.

“No matter what the records are before the game, it’s always such a great rivalry,” said Steamboat head coach Mark Drake. “Maybe we should’ve come up with something to pass between the schools, but we’ll worry about that later.”

MCHS Athletic Director Jim Loughran couldn’t remember a time when the game meant that the winner went to the playoffs.

“I’m not sure when the last time the game had more than just bragging rights on the line,” he said. “There might have been a couple of games in the late ’90s, but it’s been a while.”

The last year that a win in the series meant a team went to the playoffs was in ’99, when Moffat County defeated Steamboat, 18-17, and then went on to win one more game to get into the playoffs.

“When these two teams meet, you’ve got a ball game on your hands,” said MoCo head coach Kip Hafey, who played in his share of MCHS/SSHS showdowns as an All-State quarterback for the Bulldogs in the early ’90s.

Both teams have no health-related excuses and are going into the game with relatively healthy lineups.

The Sailors’ senior quarterback Joel Adams saw limited action in last week’s game against Rifle and will be the starting QB after missing five games with a knee injury. The Bulldogs will have senior halfback Joe Padon back after a two-week absence with a bum ankle.

For Steamboat, the season has been one full of injuries and overcoming adversity.

“We’ve been banged up all year,” Drake said. “As a young and inexperienced team to start with, never having a complete team has hurt a little.”

The Sailors sit at 3-2 in the Western Slope Conference. The two blemishes come by way of a 31-26 loss to Palisade and 34-0 defeat to Rifle.

It appears that three is the not-so-magic number in the conference because whoever ends with that many in the losses column will be the team that won’t be in the playoffs.

The Bulldogs are 3-1 in the WSC with remaining games against the Sailors and Palisade. A loss Friday and a win against Palisade could still allow them to slip into the playoffs, but the chances would be slim.

“This is the week that matters to us right now,” Hafey said. “That’s all we’re thinking about.”

As far as game strategies, the Bulldogs are out to stop the Sailors’ big plays and the Sailors think the key is the turnover ratio.

“They’ve scored a lot on big plays this season,” Hafey said. “We have to have the discipline to stop the big gainers.”

From the other sideline, Drake said, “In a game that’s going to be so close, turnovers are going to make the difference. In the games we’ve lost, we’ve turned it over and not given ourselves a chance to win.”

Once again, as in all closely matched games, the fewest mistakes will most likely find the winner.

“They are a very disciplined team,” Hafey said. “We have to keep our eyes open and brains working to win the game.”

All eyes will be on Gardner Field in Steamboat at 7 p.m. today as the color collage of blue and white (Moffat County) clashes with the red and white (Steamboat) in a fight over the brown (ball) and green (field position). This time it’s for more than bragging rights until basketball season.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or

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