KMTS FOOTBALL: Demons Keep Playoff Hopes Alive at Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS(10/31/14) – “We knew we had to win by a couple of touchdowns to get into the playoffs,” Glenwood Springs senior Evrett Marr said after his 8-yard catch in the fourth quarter provided that two-score margin in a 42-28 win at Steamboat Springs.

Coming into the game, the Sailors (4-6, 2-5 WSL) had been outscored 260-155, so clinching what likely will be the 16th and last 3A playoff spot seemed a reasonable goal. Glenwood (6-4, 5-2) got out to a quick start on a 39-yard TD run by quarterback Dante Sparaco, but after just a 15-yard return to the 30 by Mitch McCannon on the kickoff, Steamboat accepted a penalty to make backup Demon kicker Herbie Vega kick from five yards further back.

This time McCannon sliced through the coverage and shocked Glenwood with a 75-yard scoring return. Joe Deline’s extra point knotted the score at 7 with 3:41 left in the first quarter.

Undaunted, the Demons drove 80 yards following Deline’s first of five touchbacks, with Sparaco finding Jake Gentry for a 14-yard TD a minute into the second period. Glenwood quickly pushed its lead to 27-7, using a 48-yard punt return from Marr to set up Sparaco’s 11th rushing score of the season from the 15, and a fumble recovery, followed by a 34 yard pass to Marr and a 4-yard TD by Luke Prosence. Vega, a junior, made his other 4 PATs, but this one was blocked with 7:41 to go in the half.

Steamboat answered immediately with McCannon returning the kickoff 40 yards to midfield and Zach Holm finding Jesse Pugh all alone down the right sideline for a 50-yard score. Up by 13, Glenwood was on the march when Prosence lost the ball after taking a screen pass to the Sailor 30. Key plays by Chase Nieslanik and Matt Osier forced a punt that Marr tried to field on the bounce after initially deciding to let it go, and Steamboat recovered on the Demons’ 15-yard line.

Once again the defense held, forcing a McCannon fumble at the three, recovered by Osier, to preserve Glenwood’s 27-14 halftime lead. The Demons opened the second half with another impressive 80-yard scoring drive, grinding out four first downs and scoring when Prosence got around left end on 4th-and-3 from the 10. Vega’s kick provided what appeared to be a comfortable 35-14 margin, but again, it didn’t last long.

Holm broke an option run 40 yards to the Glenwood 40, then facing 4th-and-6 from the 36, placed a perfect strike to McCannon just beyond tight coverage for the touchdown, again drawing Steamboat within 14 points. Following a Demon punt, Holm’s 20 yard completion had the home team on the move, heading into the final quarter.

The Sailors reached the Demon 30, but defensive plays by Zach Lundin, Austin Gonsalves, Sam Carmer, and Cristian Gonzales held Steamboat on downs. Glenwood hurt itself with two penalties, forcing a Nieslanik punt, but the fair catch was muffed by McCannon, giving the Demons possession at the Sailor 32.

Runs by Marr and Prosence (for 17 yards to the four) produced a pair of first downs, but another penalty and an incompletion left Glenwood facing 4th-and-goal from the 8. On the previous play Sparaco tried to thread a pass into double coverage, while Marr jumped up and down all by himself in the corner of the end zone. “It was a bad read on my part,” the sophomore QB admitted, but on the next play, “I knew our line would set the edge for me to roll out, and Evrett would get open.” Rolling right, Sparaco threw a strike to his favorite receiver, who had started in motion from the left and again found space in the right corner.

Ahead by 21 after Vega’s kick with 6:47 to play, a Gerry Viveros sack seemed to insure a big win, but McCannon intercepted a pass and returned it to the Glenwood 23 with 2:43 to go. The Sailors scored quickly, Holm finding Ethan Riniker from the ten with 2:10 remaining.

Deline’s onside kick was smothered by Nieslanik, however another penalty thwarted Glenwood’s attempt to run out the clock. Holm completed four straight passes, but sure tackling limited the gains, and the Demons had their two-touchdown margin of victory.

This could be important because of the way wild card points are determined. Glenwood held the final position by three points over Pueblo County (5-5), which trounced Battle Mountain by 40 in its final game. The Huskies (6-3), after playing down and winning the 2A Western Slope, are eligible for the 3A playoffs and were ranked 19th before their loss.

Eagle Valley(7-3, 4-3 WSL), somehow ranked two spots ahead of Glenwood despite a 42-0 loss to the Demons, edged Grand Junction Central 21-20 Thursday, so the Devils’ two point margin could be in jeopardy.

Delta (7-3, 5-2), ranked 13th, denied Palisade (7-3, 5-2) the Western Slope title with 27-24 overtime win that handed 7th-ranked Rifle (9-1, 6-1) its fourth consecutive league championship. CHSAA will announce playoff seeding and matchups Sunday afternoon.

Marr had a well-balanced game for the Demons, rushing for 69 yards in 12 carries and catching 7 passes for 64 yards. Prosence gained 86 yards in 15 attempts, running his TD total to ten in his first and final varsity season. Sparaco rose to the playoff challenge, completing 16-of-22 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and running for two more scores and 103 yards in 17 carries. Lundin, coming on as a dependable receiver in his senior year, had 4 receptions for 43 yards, and Gentry, also a senior, scored his first TD this season while catching 3 passes for 38 yards. Holm, a junior, was 12-of-25 for 161 yards and three touchdowns for Steamboat.

Before the game, Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth talked about the brevity of a high school football career: “This is a young man’s game, and it goes so quickly.” Asked about the chance to extend the season with his seventeen senior teammates, Marr said, “We’ll know by Sunday the opportunity we have — it’s a blessing to be out here on the field.”