Steamboat Springs Soccer practice was scheduled to end early for the members of the Steamboat Springs High School boys team Wednesday.
But more than 15 minutes after the coaches had to leave to attend a CPR training session, the players were still going hard on the practice field.
"I just love to play the game," senior J.J. Jenny said. "I just want to play."
Jenny is one of two Sailors who didn't play last year but felt as if they wanted to be a part of the team again this season.
Both of the players returned because they wanted to contribute, which from the display at Wednesday's practice seems to be a theme among this year's players.
"Everybody out here wants to be here," senior Gunnar Sorensen said. "They are excited about the season and excited about being a part of this team."
While the number of players who came out to play this year is down, the enthusiasm among the ranks is not. Bohlmann said just 28 players came out for this year's varsity and junior varsity squads.
"I think that might be the lowest number of players we've had since the program began," Bohlmann said.
The team will also be trying to overcome the loss of nine seniors from last year's team, including standouts like Mike Rinn, Jason Sirois and Chris Gibson.
Last year's team advanced to the state playoffs before losing a tough match to Lewis-Palmer.
Bohlmann said the Sailors' past successes make Steamboat a marked team when it comes to league play. He doesn't expect anything to change this year.
The team will have to rely on veteran players such as Kyle Nelson, Michael Holland, Daniel Barney and goalkeeper Kelly Carlson, who shared time in the goal last season with Gibson.
"We will spend the preseason focused on building our fitness level," Bohlmann said. "We will also spend some time working on our defensive organization, ball control and our offensive attack."
Bohlmann said fans would not see any major changes on the field this year. The team will continue to stress ball possession and solid defense. He isn't sure what to expect from the league this year but is sure Glenwood, Rifle and Battle Mountain will be strong once again.
Around the league
After winning 11 games and finishing second in the Western Slope League last season, the Glenwood Springs Demons will, no doubt, be setting their sights on higher goals this season.
"Things are looking pretty good for us this season," new coach Bob Guska said. "We had a huge turnout (34 players) and a lot of returning talent."
The Demons will be led by forwards Ian Lochhead and Ross Smith on offense and Joey Murray on defense.
The team will also feature two strong goalkeepers in starter Buster Bosna and backup Marcus Bernier. Bernier will also play in the midfield when he isn't between the pipes. Guska expects Steamboat to be tough once again this season, saying the team has set the standard to beat in the conference.
The Battle Mountain Huskies have advanced to the regional seeding playoff game each of the past three years.
Unfortunately, the team is still looking for its first postseason win.
That's why coach Dave Cope has bulked up the team's preseason schedule by adding the Alexander Dawson Tournament to the first week.
"We went 5-0 in our non-league games last year and then we were 5-and-5 in league," Cope said. "We have a good team, we have good players. Now we just need to get over that bubble."
Three-year starter Ryan Phillips will lead the team, along with goalkeeper Chris Jones, who won nine games for the Huskies last season.
The team will return seven starters from last year's squad, including several key players in the midfield.
Cope will also be looking for some of last year's junior varsity team, which finished the season with just one loss, to contribute.
Last year the Palisade Bulldogs made it to the state playoffs behind the strength of senior striker Jimmy Temple.
"He is a guy that is going to be hard to replace," coach Drake Jendreau said.
Temple may be gone this year, but the coach is still optimistic his team can be competitive in the league this season.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Jendreau said. "But other teams are going to have to work hard to beat us this season."
Unfortunately for the new coach, he will be without another top player for most of the season. Sean O'Hara, a senior midfielder, broke his foot in the offseason and isn't expected to be ready before the playoffs begin.
But Jendreau will have seven seniors, including goalkeeper Todd Bondurant, fullback Chris Sargent and forward Cody Pope, to fall back on this season.
"We should have a good mix of experienced players and younger players," Jendreau said. "We have a good crop of sophomore players, and if they step up, we could do pretty well."
Last year the Bulldogs finished the season with 11 wins and four losses.
Placing fifth in the Western Slope League didn't sit well with the Rifle Bears last year.
It also didn't help the Bears lost several close games en route to a 6-8-2 record and just missed the state playoffs.
Ten seniors graduated from that team, but six players will return to the field this season hoping to prove last season was just a fluke for this traditionally strong Western Slope opponent.
Midfielders Doug Humble and David Romero will lead this year's team. They will be flanked by striker Matt Lunnard and goalkeeper Nick Worley.
"The teams in this league are so even that you can't look past anybody," coach Tom Taucher said. "I think we may have been guilty of doing that last year."
Taucher said the Bears' record last season was a little misleading. The team lost several tight games and tied a couple of other games they should have won.
The coach also thinks the league will be tight again this year with Steamboat and Glenwood leading the way. However, he also thinks all of the other teams in the league will be in contention for the title, including the Bears.
Winning will be a priority for Moffat County this year.
The Bulldog players are not setting their sights on a state or league title yet, but the returning seniors would be happy to start by winning a single game and then seeing where things go from there.
"Everybody of this team wants to end the no-win streak," new coach Mick Havrilla said. "This group of kids practices so hard. They are determined to do better than they have in the past."
The Bulldogs failed to win a game last year in the league. That is something senior players Eric Havrilla, Brandon Duarte, Derek Thompson and Brad Hurd want to avoid this season.
The coach, and other coaches from around the league, not only think the Bulldogs will win this year, but they expect the Moffat County team to be one of the more competitive teams in the league.
"The only thing I'm afraid of is that our players will get too tense," Havrilla said. "In order to win, our players will need to find that balance between playing loose and remaining intense. If they can do that, we will win some games."
Havrilla expects Steamboat to be one of the tougher teams in the league once again this season.
"The program in Steamboat is the measuring stick for the rest of the league," Havrilla said. "I have a lot of respect for Rob and the program over there."
Havrilla also said Glenwood Springs and Battle Mountain should contend for the league title.