Former Sailor flying high

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— Former Steamboat football player Erik Svendsen makes his first collegiate bowl appearance this New Year's Eve, when his Air Force Falcons take on the Fresno State Bulldogs in San Jose, Calif.

Svendsen, a junior who starts on special teams and plays backup strong safety, will be in the Silicon Valley Classic that starts at 4:30 p.m. (MST) Dec. 31 on Fox Sports Net.

Svendsen was the starting quarterback for the Sailors in 1997, leading them to the first round of the state playoffs.

Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry said Svendsen plays an integral part in the Falcons' program.

"He has been a very valuable contributor on some special teams, and special teams is the most important part of our team," DeBerry said.

"Erik has improved as much as any player on the team. He has been persistent and has worked extremely hard.

"His work ethic and attitude has enabled him to contribute."

Earlier this season, Air Force suffered a heartbreaking loss to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

The Irish won 34-31 in overtime.

"It was a tough loss," Svendsen said. "They're a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) team this year. That would have been a big-time win for us."

Air Force, which plays in the Mountain West Conference, enters the game with an 8-3 record.

Fresno State, which is in the Western Athletic Conference, is 7-4.

Fresno State defeated California earlier this season. Air Force scored a big win over Colorado State, 44-40.

"We had a satisfying season in the fact that we won the CINC (Commander in Chief's) Trophy and are going to a bowl," DeBerry said.

"We beat the conference champions (Colorado State) considering we were picked anywhere from fourth to sixth and had the fewest number of starters returning as anybody in the league."

Svendsen, who was with his family in Steamboat over Christmas break, left for San Jose on Tuesday.

Svendsen said the Air Force vs. Notre Dame game was one that he would never forget.

"It was great just to be able to play at Notre Dame because of all the history and the all great teams from there," he said.

Making his first bowl appearance also will be special, he said.

A win for Air Force could possibly move the Falcons into the final top-25 Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls.

"I think going to a bowl will be real exciting and be kind of a nice wrap-up to a pretty decent season," Svendsen said.

"We'll have a great time and hopefully come out with a win."

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