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Vail Christian stays undefeated with win at Hayden

Owen Miller, a junior on the Hayden football team, tackles the Saints’ Vinny Nowicki during a game against Vail Christian at home on Friday.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

HAYDEN — Hayden head coach Matt Linsacum wishes the players on the football team could be more like goldfish.

“We joked about a Ted Lasso comment today: be a goldfish,” Linsacum said. “A goldfish is the happiest animal on the planet because it’s got a 10-second memory. We didn’t do that. We had bad plays and held on to those.”

Dwelling on bad plays led to more slip ups as the Tigers fell 44-0 to Vail Christian on Friday night.

An early mistake haunted Hayden all night.

The Saints punted and a Tiger dropped on top of the bouncing ball, but the football came loose. A Saint landed on the ball, giving his team possession near the Hayden 30-yard line. A couple plays later, the visitors scored with a 12-yard rush from senior Leo Rothenburg. Senior Vinny Nowicki added the 2-point conversion.

“As an athlete, you have to learn to be short-minded,” Linsacum said. “For instance, when we had that punt, we held on to that for the whole first half and that came back and killed us.”

It’s hard to say if the game would have been different if that error hadn’t been made. It’s unlikely. The Saints are one of the best teams in 8-man football with a 6-0 record now.

Brayden Dale, junior quarterback on the Hayden football team makes a run for it during a game against Vail Christian at home on Friday.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We have a good group of seniors,” said Saints head coach Tim Pierson. “And that makes a big difference when you have kids that have played for a while and their maturity and leadership.”

Vail Christian opted to run the ball more often than not, but both quarterback Taylor Shull and Nowicki took snaps, tricking the Tigers on occasion. Most of the time, Hayden did a good job of following the ball, but the Saints earned three or four yards each time, cruising down the field with little resistance.

Vinny Nowicki, a senior on the Saints football team runs towards the endzone during a game against at Hayden on Friday.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Hayden started moving on offense down 30-0 with about six minutes to play. Junior Sabyn Hager earned big yards to set up a run by junior quarterback Brayden Dale that earned a first down and put the Tigers on the Saints 30-yard line. Three plays later, Dale picked up another first down and set Hayden up on the 14-yard line with less than two minutes to play.

Vail Christian’s defense put up three consecutive stops, bringing up a fourth-and-1 situation for the Tigers.

Grady Frentress, a sophomore on the Hayden football team, makes a man miss during a game against Vail Christian at home on Friday.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Dale was pressured, but looked left and threw the ball to Grady Frentress on the near sideline. The sophomore made the catch and was dropped at the one yard line as time expired.

“We need more communication and just keep our heads on straight,” said junior Jake Lindley. “We’re a good team. We just have to concentrate. There’s a lot of lack of that.”

With a younger quarterback running the Vail Christian offense in the fourth, the Tigers took advantage. A Saint receiver tipped a pass in the endzone and Hager was there to nab the falling ball. He ran 30 yards. Dale followed with a big run to midfield, but the drive stopped there. Vail Christian forced a turnover on downs with nine minutes to play and scored once more to force a running clock.

“We’re not going to let that game define us,” Linsacum said. “We took our lump on that one. It’s just about coming back a little bit stronger. We kind of jumped out of character there during the game as a team and it’s going to be about an attitude adjustment and moving forward.”

Vail Christian 44, Hayden 0

VC 16 14 8 6

H 0 0 0 0

First quarter

VC – Leo Rothenberg 12 rush, Vinny Nowicki rush, 8:25

VC – Daniel Farrell 10 pass from Taylor Shull, 1:04

Second quarter

VC – Nowicki 12 pass from Shull, conversion no good, 11:29

VC – Shull 40 rush, Peter Mills rush, 6:23

Third quarter

VC – Shull 5 rush, Nowicki rush, 7:07

Fourth quarter

VC – Hunter Gilbert 16 rush, conversion no good, 8:00

Hayden football schedule

Aug. 28 - vs. Mancos, L 57-8

Sept. 10 - at Norwood, W 54-6

Sept. 17 - at West Grand, W 36-24

Sept 24 - vs. Gilpin County, W 56-6

Oct. 1 - at Soroco, W 48-0

Oct. 8 - vs. Vail Christian (senior night), L 44-0

Oct. 15 - vs. Plateau Valley (homecoming), W 48-24

Oct. 29 - at Rangely, 7 p.m.

Steamboat Springs soccer serves Battle Mountain its first conference loss

William Haden, a freshman on the Steamboat Springs High School soccer team, scored the second goal during a game against Battle Mountain on Thursday evening.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Going into Thursday night’s game at Gardner Field, the Battle Mountain boys soccer team was 5-3 overall and 4-0 against Western Slope teams.

Steamboat Springs High School used three first-half goals to defeat the Huskies 4-2, serving them their first conference loss.

The Sailors looked great in the first half, dominating in every aspect of the game. Junior Cam Daly scored nine minutes in. Nine minutes later, freshman William Haden added another goal to make it 2-0 with 22 minutes to play.

The last time the Sailors and the Huskies played, Battle Mountain won at home 2-1. Scoring two goals to take an early lead was a major improvement for Steamboat.

The Sailors didn’t stop there, though. Senior Joe Scoppa scored off a header that arched over the advancing Huskies keeper with 10:03 in the first half.

Five minutes into the second half, Daly scored his second goal of the night off a through ball from sophomore Charlie Reisman.

Steamboat was thankful for the big lead. Battle Mountain scored three unanswered goals to end the game. The game ended before they could tie.

Cam Daly and Laiken Roth, juniors on the Steamboat Springs High School soccer team, both go up for a header during a game against Battle Mountain on Thursday.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Twenty seconds after Daly’s second-half goal, Battle Mountain got its first off a defensive error from Steamboat.

The defense playing too high and goalkeeper Charlie Welch being too aggressive resulted in another goal 10 minutes later. The Huskies weren’t out of it at 4-2 with 23 minutes to play.

Steamboat held them off, but the Huskies held out hope, scoring off a free kick with 41 seconds to play. They desperately put the ball on goal, but the buzzer sounded before the Huskies tied it.

Steamboat is now 5-4-1 overall and 2-2-1 in league play. The victory snapped a cold spell for the Sailors, who haven’t won since Sept. 4 and lost or tied their last four contests.

The team next plays against Rifle at 11 a.m. Saturday at home.

Joe Scoppa, a senior on Steamboat Springs High School soccer team, runs toward a teammate after scoring a goal during a game against Battle Mountain on Thursday evening.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs 4, Battle Mountain 3

SS 3 1 – 4

BM 0 3 – 2

First half

SS – Cam Daly (Laiken Roth), 31:19

SS – William Haden (Liam Catterson), 22:00

SS – Joe Scoppa (Charlie Reisman), 10:03

Second half

SS – Cam Daly (Reisman), 34:46

BM – Yahir Eguis, 34:24

BM – Bryant Ramirez, 23:48

BM – free kick goal, 0:41

Steamboat Boys Soccer Schedule

Aug. 21 - at Centaurus, L 3-1

Aug. 27 - at Peak to Peak, W 3-1

Aug. 28 - at Littleton, W 1-0

Sept. 2 - vs. Summit, W 2-1 (2OT)

Sept. 4 - at Evergreen, W 3-2 (OT)

Sept. 8 - vs. Eagle Valley, L 2-1

Sept. 11 - at Aspen, L 3-2

Sept. 16 - at Battle Mountain, L 2-1

Sept. 21 - vs. Vail Mountain, T 2-2

Sept. 30 - vs. Battle Mountain, W 4-3

Oct. 2 - vs. Rifle, W 5-1

Oct. 5 - at Eagle Valley, L 2-0

Oct. 7 - vs. Glenwood Springs, W 1-0

Oct. 13 - at Vail Mountain, L 2-1 (2OT)

Oct. 21 - vs. Summit, L 2-1 (OT)

Oct. 28 - at Grand Junction (first round playoff), L 5-3

Andrew Luck, Clayton Kershaw train with Summit High football team

Retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck practices with the Summit High School football program during a July practice at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo from Summit Tigers football

After three-time Major League Baseball Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw departed a Summit High School football weight room session a month ago, Tigers coaches and players joked, “You never know what you might miss if you skip practice.”

“It’s going to be Michael Jordan, or this guy or that guy,” Summit head coach James Wagner said. “And, sure enough, within five days we got a call about Andrew Luck showing up.”

In July, the Summit High School varsity football team may have had the greatest singular week of working out with American sports superstars of any group of high school boys in summer workout history. And at the core of that dream-like week was a truly surreal, for-the-love-of-the-game evening at Tiger Stadium with one of the greatest gunslingers in the world.

It was Summit High School assistant football coach Rob Gannon who looked down at his iPhone on a Tuesday in July to see an Indianapolis phone number he didn’t recognize. He let the call go to voicemail. When he listened back, he heard the voice of a 31-year-old who also loves skiing in Summit County: retired Indianapolis Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.

Gannon had initially met Luck the winter prior through mutual friends at a ski patrol shack at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Luck told Gannon, the Tigers defensive backs coach, he’d love to come out to a practice one day.

That day manifested last month as the Summit coaches told players the night before a Thursday practice a former No. 1 overall pick was coming to practice the next day. That sent Tigers junior starting quarterback Jack Schierholz into an analysis of the list of No. 1 NFL draft picks. The names included the likes of three generational quarterbacks drafted by the Colts: Denver Broncos legend John Elway, in 1983, Broncos Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning, in 1998, and Luck, in 2012.

“And then I remembered hearing something about Andrew Luck skiing at A-Basin,” Schierholz said. “So I thought, ‘Maybe it’s him.’ That would make sense. But as soon as I walked in, it was surreal.”

What was especially surreal to each Tiger athlete and coach in attendance was how affable and attentive Luck was. Tigers offensive coordinator Sean Mase had never met Luck before that day, though, a former Arapahoe Basin Ski Area employee, Mase had met other members of Luck’s family at the ski area, which they’ve enjoyed skiing at for decades.

“I’ve never seen Andrew Luck ski, but I assume he rips,” Mase said.

Once at practice, as Luck sat down with coaches by the whiteboard, Mase and Wagner soon saw Luck was in no rush to do anything but chat football. Organically the conversation evolved into Luck — a superstar that retired in his prime that many NFL teams would love to have in training camp right now — helping them diagram pass protection and how to swing their running backs out to improve their offensive quick game.

That was far from where Luck’s contributions ended. As the four-time Pro Bowler and 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year began chatting with the assembled Tigers in the team’s locker room, Mase and Wagner soon realized the planned 15 minutes of kids asking questions may end up taking up all of practice.

Retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck speaks to 2021 Summit High graduate quarterback Cam Kalaf (left), Tigers head coach James Wagner (right) and the Summit High School football program in the locker room during a July practice at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo from Summit Tigers football

Luck was honest and thoughtful in all his responses, whether it be Tiger center Graham Kalaf asking him to choose between skiing or snowboarding (skiing, although Luck said he used to snowboard) or his thoughts on playing at Mile High Stadium (Luck told the Tigers it was one of the loudest, rowdiest environments he experienced).

To Wagner, seeing Luck give each and every player’s question all the time in the world was a reminder that football unites — whether you are a 15-year-old who’s new to the sport or a superstar quarterback.

“That’s the great thing about football is it brings us all together and you have an even playing field, that common ground to be in that locker room and to just have him simply be one of the boys,” Wagner said. “Football is still football, no matter where you are at. I think he was so happy to be out here on the field again being around the game. And that was really cool for me to see that in him.”

Luck then joined the Tigers out on the practice field. He shared tips with Schierholz, such as holding the football with a looser grip to improve consistency. For Summit senior wide receiver Aidan Collins and other Tigers, Luck made it clear the eagle-claw grip is the only way to carry the football.

Wagner even looked up at one point from coaching the first-team defense to see Luck quarterbacking the scout team offense for the junior varsity team, slinging passes all over the field.

“The kids are all trying to get picks on Andrew so they could say that,” Wagner said. “We almost had one.”

Retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck (center rear) poses for a photo with the Summit High School football team during a July practice at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo from Summit Tigers football

As for Kershaw, the 33-year-old 8-time All-Star and reigning World Series champion found his way to the Tiger weight room while he and his family stayed in town during the All-Star break and ensuing series versus the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver. Like other fathers on vacation, Kershaw needed to find a place to get in extra work outside of family time. His doctor asked Wagner if the future Hall of Famer could continue to rehab from an injury at the Tigers’ weight room.

Wagner said the common ground element of sports also came out for his team in this setting, as the Tigers youngsters saw the Los Angeles Dodger great engaging in some of the same exercises as them.

Wagner said when he asked Kershaw to talk to the boys, he said they wouldn’t believe how many players make it to the majors on talent alone. But talent, Kershaw said, only gets them so far. It’s the guys who put in the work and compete every single day who maintain the highest level.

Schierholz — who said the fellow southpaw Kershaw is his favorite baseball player — saw Kershaw’s work ethic firsthand, as he switched up his typical lifting spot to post up next to the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player.

“It just shows it’s work ethic,” Schierholz said. “It’s nothing crazy they are doing to get to that level. It showed he’s at a high level and he’s accomplished a lot, but he still has that drive to get better.”

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, right, speaks to the Summit High School football team in the weight room as coaches look on during a July practice at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo from Summit Tigers football


Three Rivers Little League Junior All-Stars capture state title banners

A week after winning the District 1 tournament title, the Three Rivers Little League junior baseball and softball teams capped off their seasons by winning the Colorado State All Star Championship tournament.

Three Rivers Little League is composed of roughly 400 players ranging from Vail to Glenwood to Aspen and the surrounding areas.

The Three Rivers 14-year-old baseball team played close to home this past weekend at El Jebel’s Crawford Field hosting Academy Little League. The junior baseball team used the hometown crowd to their advantage in two dominating performances to sweep Academy Little League in a best of three series and capture the state title.

Starting pitcher Cole Fenton led the way in the first game for the All Stars as he pitched four perfect innings with six strikeouts, no walks and no men left on. Fenton’s performance early on in the game led to a 19-0 victory.

In game 2, Taylor Hays got the start and led the team to their state banner over Academy Little League by a score of 12-2. Hays pitched for six innings while allowing only one hit and garnering six strikeouts.

The Three Rivers Junior softball team players celebrate their state title.
Cassie Cerise

“It was great to have two great Little League teams come together and face off. All respect to Academy Little League; it’s tough to travel all this way and play baseball. We just outmatched them, our defense was awesome, and we had some spectacular pitching performances,” said Steve Smart, head coach of the all-star baseball team.

The Three Rivers 14-year-old all-star softball team was forced to fight for its state championship in Denver without a home field advantage.

The all-star team had no trouble in its first, best-out-of-three matchup against Arapahoe Little League, whom they beat 17-2 in only four innings. In those four innings, Phedre Kempton pitched all four innings and contributed eight strikeouts to the game’s 12 total outs.

The following day, the softball team had its eyes set on the title but had to brave the scorching Front Range, where temperatures on Sunday neared triple digits during game time. With no promise of an afternoon thunderstorm, the all-stars instead persevered through a high scoring, hot and heated four-hour, seven-minute battle.

Both Lia Nowicki and Phedre Kempton pitched to help push the team past Arapahoe Little League once and for all by a score of 24-18.

The girl’s endurance in that game resulted with them posing with the state title banner in front of their family and friends, their faces flushed from the heat but smiling while sticking up a No. 1 to signify they are the best in the state.

“In the end it was a total team effort. Everyone did their job off the bench. All the girls that came into hit either had productive outs or got hits. We put in a lot of work, especially the last month, where we practiced five times a week in preparation for the district and state tournaments,” said Matt Kreutzer, the head coach of the all-star softball team.

Usually, both of these teams would now have the opportunity to advance to the regional tournament in order to try to earn their spot in the Little League Junior World Series at the end of every summer. But Little League Baseball and Softball decided back in May to narrow down its usual tournament to include only the 12U division due to COVID-19 precautions, thereby nixing the junior division that the Three Rivers All-Star champions compete in, meaning for the newly reigned state champions, their seasons end here.

“It’s definitely more bitter than sweet. I think the girls were ready for the next part and more competition. The girls did so well this past weekend, and it would have been nice to see competition from other states for sure,” said Kreutzer.

Watch: Summit boys, girls basketball fight fatigue to defeat Eagle Valley rivals

Hector Diaz passes to Naz Poliuk as Cam Kalaf watches during the Summit High School varsity basketball team's 71-59 win over rival Eagle Valley on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Summit High in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Duxbury

Considering his players didn’t get to bed until after 1 a.m. Saturday morning Summit High varsity boys basketball coach Jordan Buller was a bit worried about energy for Saturday’s game versus Eagle Valley. After a tough loss at Palisade, driving back on Interstate 70 in a snowstorm meant the only real preparation the Tigers got for their afternoon tip versus their rival, the Devils, was a shoot around, free throws and a pregame debriefing.

Despite the short rest and quick turnaround — and despite not having any fans in the stands — the Tigers (4-2, 3-1 4A Western Slope) bottled up more than enough energy to run away from the Devils (2-4, 1-4) in an emotional, scrappy 71-59 victory.

Buller credited the team’s depth and ferociousness on the offensive and defensive glass for the impressive, energetic win.

Summit played with that passion from the get-go, as Buller told his squad rotations and substitutions would be more frequent than normal. Senior captain point guard Hector Diaz (10 points) was limited to 4-minute spells against Eagle Valley’s in-your-face man-to-man defense. Diaz was one of 10 Tigers to score on Saturday. The team had an even offensive output led by Naz Poliuk’s 14 points, Cam Kalaf’s 14 points and Tyler Nakos’ 13 points.

The Devils tried to agitate senior Poliuk all game long. Devils senior guard Branden Escudero even stayed at Poliuk’s hip when the Tiger went over to the sideline to speak with Buller at one point in the game. Though Escudero won his share of possessions, it was Poliuk who responded to the challenge throughout the game, including grabbing a blocked shot at the Devils’ rim and running it back to score a transition 3-pointer that sent the Tigers’ junior varsity players in attendance into a frenzy.

“One of the things with (Poliuk) is he can be a little bit of a firecracker and we’re anticipating we’re going to see some guys really get after him,” Buller said. “Eagle did a good job getting under his skin and I thought at the beginning he responded a little wild, so I called him over, but after that he was calm and played through physical play, guys being all in his shorts, I felt he did a pretty good job.”

“I’m ready for it — I kind of expected it because they know who I am and how I play versus other teams,” Poliuk added. “I was most proud of that 3 in transition, it really got the (JV) players hyped.

Buller credited Nakos for playing more assertively Saturday, especially when attacking the basket off the dribble. The coach said the state-tournament-qualifying golfer Nakos is used to keeping his calm out on the links. The Tigers coaching staff has pushed him to play with “more of an edge” out on the hardwood.

But if there was anything Buller was proud of Saturday it was Summit’s rebounding from Kalaf, Kobe Cortright, Andrew Duxbury and Ephraim Overstreet — as Summit’s size limited Eagle Valley to one shot on most possessions and created extra possessions on the offensive end.

The Summit High School varsity girls basketball team defends against Eagle Valley High Scool in the Tigers’ win on Saturday, Feb. 13 in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Duxbury

Short-handed Tigers girls snap losing streak

Though they were without two of their top players, the Summit High School varsity girls basketball team managed to come back to defeat Eagle Valley 35-30 on Saturday.

Summit (2-5, 1-4) was lead by a 13-point outburst by Brina Babich, who excelled in the post in a game where fellow post player Autumn Rivera (5 points) played well throughout but went down with an ankle injury late in the game. Rivera’s injury added on to the load for Summit’s short-handed squad. Two players were called up from junior varsity due to a season-ending broken wrist to Paolo Arredondo and Anna Garvert being too ill to play.

Watch: Replays of Saturday’s Facebook Live broadcasts

“I’m definitely proud of today’s game,” Babich said. “I had a hard time with mental things a few weeks ago, so I’m proud I was not getting into my head. I was forgetting the last shot and staying aggressive. Coach (Kayle Walker-Burns) said she wanted us to hustle and play good defense and get good shots up. We needed to score to win and I think we were successful at that.”

Another Summit standout Saturday was Sarah Pappas, a versatile inside-out player who excelled on turn-and-shoot opportunities en route to eight points, including two crucial fourth quarter buckets in Summit’s comeback. The Tigers opted for a 1-3-1 zone defense to conclude the game, as Babich and Pappas excelled in forcing Eagle Valley (1-5, 1-4) to commit turnovers.

Walker-Burns said the Tigers’ win also came after the team got little sleep after a late bus ride back from Palisade on Friday. The coach said it was “the little things” that helped Summit fight fatigue and hold out in the last few minutes of the game, capped by Kelley Duffy’s two big free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

“Yesterday we played more as a team than we had all season, and we were tired from that,” Pappas said. “But once we settled down, we knew we could beat them. We were flowing better, we were more aggressive with our shots and, overall, we kicked it up.”