Football games are won between the hashes, but winning teams are built away from football fields.
So it should come as no surprise that the Steamboat Springs' players, particularly the upperclassmen, have committed a tremendous amount of their free time -- away from games and practice -- to each other, a dinner table and an abnormally large amount of meat.
"I'd say we are a little spoiled," senior Lonny Radford said.
Vicky and Gregg Johnson, parents of senior and first-time football player Tyler Johnson, hosted the first team meal at their home at the beginning of the season. Like most teenage boys, Tyler gave his parents 24 hours notice, so there was little time to plan, prepare or organize.
Fortunately, the weather was nice, so the Johnson's held a cookout with 15 pounds of beef, 30 bratwursts and huge containers of french fries, coleslaw and baked beans. Ice cream and cookies were served for dessert.
But what impressed Vicky Johnson the most wasn't the players' appetites but what came after dinner.
"They built a fire and sat out there for an hour and bonded," Vicky Johnson said. "I think it was a really awesome start. They realized they wanted to be together as a team."
The idea of team meals caught on, and parents have taken turns hosting nearly 20 players per meal this season.
Last week, because of some miscommunication, two team meals were offered before Steamboat's game against D'Evelyn.
The Johnsons -- this time with one week to prepare -- made a Southern meal with a 17-pound ham, a 17-pound turkey and a 9-pound roast topped off with potato salad, rice and gravy, biscuits, green bean casserole, sweet tea, lemonade and homemade brownies, ice cream and cookies for dessert.
Nineteen players attended the Wednesday feast.
"They ate everything," Vicky said. "Gregg and I had a little rice and gravy and some potato salad. We thought we'd eat after they were finished."
The next night -- last Thursday -- Jill and Joe Leary, parents of senior Taylor Leary, hosted 25 players but cooked steaks for 40. There was nothing left.
The tradition of team meals isn't new to high school sports. The Sailors are using an old-fashioned way of establishing team camaraderie to their advantage. And the players are sure the chemistry they have formed is a major reason why they are playing in the state semifinals against Florence on Saturday.
"We get along super well," Taylor Leary said. "There isn't one kid that's got to have all the glory. This season has been amazing."
And a bit hard on the local meat market.
Cheryl McKenzie, mother of junior Clay McKenzie, confirmed one meal's menu was 24 pounds of chicken, 15 pounds of barbeque ribs, 15 pounds of cheesy potatoes and six batches of green bean casserole: all prepared by loving parents.
"It's been worth it," McKenzie said. "It's been one of the neatest experiences I've ever been involved with."
Over the course of the season, the team meals have turned into linemen meals, as well, either at the Ore House or at homes of people such as senior Kris Gayer.
Gayer called at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, giving his mother, Kathy, less than seven hours to prepare for 12 hungry linemen.
"Oh my gosh, it's a riot," Kathy Gayer said. "The kids are so cool."
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