Sailors hold off Devils after storming back
Eagle Valley falls at home in a thriller that comes down to the final play
GYPSUM — One play. One point.
That’s all that separated Eagle Valley and Steamboat Springs on Friday night under the lights at John Ramunno Field in a cliffhanger that kept butts out of seats in both sets of bleachers until the very last snap.
The Devils, winners of two double-overtime thrillers already this season, felt the anguish of being on the losing end of a last-second drive after the Sailors blocked a game-winning field goal try from about 35 yards out on the final play of regulation to seal the 31-30 win.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said wide-eyed Sailors coach Jay Hamric. “In that fourth quarter, with two minutes left, I looked over to my coach and I said, ‘Isn’t this fun? This is an amazing game.’ And I said, ‘Whether we win or lose, what amazing game. This is what high school football is all about.’”
You’re not going to find any disagreement there, although the Devils, after leading by 24-10 with 10:27 to go in the third quarter, and 30-24 with 2:48 to go in regulation, would have preferred to leave with the win.
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“What we’ve got to do is take the next step,” Devils coach John Davis said. “Our kids have done a great job of putting in a new offense, putting in a new defense. They did some really good things on offense. I was very, very proud of them. Defense, we’ve got to give our hats off to Steamboat. They did a really good job. You can’t say that they didn’t do well. They did.”
Eagle Valley stole a possession to open the game, recovering Tatum Coe’s onside kick to set up shop with first-and-10 from the Sailors’ 45.
Led by senior quarterback Will Geiman’s legs and arm, the Devils drove down to the Sailors’ 11-yard line in five plays, but on first down, Geiman’s throw into the end zone sailed behind his intended target and landed right in the hands of the Sailors’ Cody Mousley.
It was one of a handful of critical plays that the Devils would love to have back.
The Sailors capitalized on the turnover, going 80 yards in 14 plays on a drive capped by tight end Ben Bogan’s touchdown catch on a fade into the right corner of the end zone on fourth-and-4. Earlier in the drive, the Sailors faced a fourth-and-7 from the Devils’ 32 and converted on a screen to Charlie Reisman that ended with a late hit out of bounds by a Devils player that tacked on another 15 yards.
The Devils answered with a 15-play, 66-yard drive that included Geiman converting a fourth-and-1 from the Sailors’ 32 and then a fourth-and-goal from the 2 with a plunge up the middle. Geiman also added the 2-point conversion with a strong second effort after being stacked up.
The Sailors settled for a field goal on their ensuing drive after stalling at the Devils’ 9-yard line.
After trading possessions, the Devils grabbed their first lead when Erich Petersen took a pitch to the left on a misdirection play that had the Sailors all going the other way and tight-roped down the Devils’ sideline untouched for a 50-yard score. Another Geiman conversion made it 16-10.
The Devils then recovered a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff, and took over at the Sailors’ 35 with under a minute to go, but only managed to get two plays off before the clock ran out.
Petersen then returned the second-half kickoff 55 yards and the Devils only needed three plays to score. Geiman looked bottled up on a run on third-and-5 from the Sailors’ 43 but somehow squirted out of the scrum to make a sprint for the end zone.
Down 24-10, and facing a fourth-and-3 from their own 45 on their ensuing drive, the Sailors looked shipwrecked, but senior QB Jake Hamric picked up the first down on a short underneath pass. The Sailors scored six plays later when Brady Grove scored from 15 yards out on a delayed draw.
The Devils turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, and the Sailors made them pay on an eight-play scoring drive. Hamric hit Beck Vanderbosch on a pinpoint 28-yard fade that set Steamboat up at the Eagle Valley half-yard line, and Hamric punched it in from there.
Needing a drive, with the game knotted at 24, Geiman led the Devils on a 14-play march that included another big fourth-down conversion. Facing third-and-6 from the Sailors’ 11, Geiman then rolled right and drilled Eric Hasley for the go-ahead touchdown. The Sailors stacked up Geiman at the goal line on the 2-point conversion, however, which would come back to haunt the Devils.
The Devils defense came up huge on the Sailors’ ensuing drive, ripping out a fumble on third-and-3 from the Eagle Valley 6-yard line that the Devils’ Branden Vigil recovered. Backed up in their own end, the Devils couldn’t pick up a first down to keep the clock running, instead being forced to punt to Steamboat Springs with 2:48 to go.
After regaining possession, the Sailors needed just two plays to score. Hamric found a wide-open Cade Gedeon running free behind the entire Eagle Valley defense for a 44-yard touchdown strike. After connecting on the point after, Steamboat Springs led 31-30 with 2:21 to go.
Geiman led Eagle Valley on one frantic final drive, picking up another two fourth-down conversions, to get the home team to the Sailors’ 20 for one final snap.
When the Sailors blocked Coe’s kick, the visiting sideline stormed the field, while the Devils dropped to the turf in disbelief.
“They’re a tough opponent,” Geiman said. “We played them tough. It just came down to a few small executions.”
Steamboat Springs improved to 5-1 overall with the win, and 1-0 in the 3A Western Slope while Eagle Valley fell to 3-2 and 0-1 in the Slope.
“A great, great game,” said Sailors coach Jay Hamric. “Just gritty. Both sides of the ball, just putting it out there. Hats off to them, playing tough, tough football.”
“We’re taking the next step,” Davis said. “That means we’ve got to sit there and say, Steamboat won. We can do things, execute, and do a little better job on execution.”