'They never gave up'

Sailors' football season ends in Florence

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With one knee stuck in the snow and the other bent to support the weight of his body, Chris Dombey cried.

And quarterback David May, with bloodshot eyes, came to kneel by his classmate, teammate and friend.

"It's over," Dombey said.

Just like that a Steamboat Springs football season full of inspired play and magical moments ended, 13-6, when May's third-down pass to Dombey in the left half of the end zone sailed high and out of bounds as time expired Saturday in Florence.

Florence now will face Palisade -- who defeated Mountain View 24-21 -- in next weekend's championship in Grand Junction. It will be a rematch of last year's final, which Florence won.

But it's tough to wonder what might have been had the Sailors not turned the ball over three times and spent three quarters in offensive futility.

Instead of giving up, however, Steamboat rallied in the game's final 12 minutes, scoring one touchdown and forcing a fumble to give its offense one more shot at manufacturing one possible game-winning and season-saving drive.

With 1 minute, 38 seconds left, the Sailors took over on their 30-yard line, trailing by seven.

In conditions that resembled an upside-down and shaken snow globe, May and Steamboat's receivers led the Sailors 51 yards down the field to set up first and goal from the 9-yard line with 16 seconds remaining.

May's first two passes were incomplete, giving Steamboat's offense two seconds and, consequently, one play to get into the end zone for the shot to tie or win on the two-point conversion.

It was not meant to be.

"We just ran out of time," Sailors coach Mark Drake said. "I feel for these kids. They've worked so hard."

A semifinal loss by seven points, knowing if they had won they would have been hosting the state championship game, was tough for the Sailors to take. But rewind to two-a-day practices in August. If you had walked over to tell May the Sailors would make the state semifinals, he wouldn't have taken you seriously.

"I would have said (you) were an idiot," he admitted.

The Sailors have consistently risen to whatever challenges they have encountered this season, and Saturday was no different. Despite two offensive turnovers and one special-teams fumble, the defense gave up just six points on those miscues.

Florence gained 222 yards on the ground but had difficulty finding the end zone. Two superb runs from quarterback Jeremy Young and tailback Matt Ortiz were the Huskies' lone scores and both came in the first half.

The Sailors couldn't get anything going offensively, and then May connected with Lonny Radford on a 42-yard completion in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, bringing the offense and the sidelines to life with more than nine minutes left in the game.

Several plays later, May dove in for the score from the 2-yard line, pulling Steamboat to within one score at the 7:49 mark. A low snap prevented kicker Walker Melzer from getting the extra point.

Neither team did much on their next possessions, and Florence took over with more than three minutes left and hopes of picking up a couple of first downs to run out the clock. The Huskies moved the ball down the field, bolstered by a 32-yard completion, but the Sailors defense forced a fumble -- one that the officials had to meet over -- to give the offense one more shot.

"We just showed up too late," Dombey said.

Steamboat finishes the season an impressive 11-2. This year's Sailors team was the third since 1979 to make the state semifinals.

"They never gave up," Drake said. "They provided themselves an opportunity at the end."

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