One of Aaron Finch's favorite mottos is borrowed from Sir Winston Churchill: "Never give in. Never give in."
That quotation, Finch said, exemplifies this year's Steamboat Springs football team.
The Sailors' 4-5 record was nothing impressive. But considering Steamboat started 0-5, the turnaround at the end of the season should mean something to the seniors and the players and coaches returning next year.
After being outscored 172-84 in the first five games, the Sailors outscored their opposition 142-47 in the final four. Although Steamboat's opposition in the first five weeks was much better than the opponents in the final four, the Sailors pulled out a season-ending win against Glenwood Springs, a playoff team from the Western Slope League.
"I think we are leaving believing we could be a good football team," Finch said. "They continued to work hard and get better and continued to learn how to be better teammates to each other. Their willingness to work hard and be coached when things looked grim really has been the personality of the team."
The low point -- and the turning point -- was an Oct. 1 loss to Montezuma-Cortez, Finch said. Steamboat was defeated easily in a loss that dealt a serious blow to its postseason hopes. The loss also sparked a change.
The next week, Steamboat routed Battle Mountain and went on to win its next three games to finish .500 in league play.
"It was very hard for us to believe in ourselves from an offensive scheme standpoint and how we were executing," Finch said. "We had played some tough opponents. I think, getting in a little run there, we started believing in what we were doing. I think, then, we started building some momentum. The last two games were two total team performances."
With few seniors, Steamboat was forced to start many players with little or no varsity experience. The Sailors were introduced to a new coach and a new coaching staff, as well as a new defense. By the end, the defense began playing well together, forcing teams into third-and-long situations and preventing them from converting.
The improved play on defense, coupled with the cutback in turnovers, led to success.
Now, the key will be building on the foundation Finch and his staff put into place this year.
"I learned a lot," Finch said. "I hope I can say that after every season. That's part of what life is about. You figure out how to get better every time out. What we are looking for is getting better every day, not just as football players, but as people."
This year, the Western Slope League was talented, deep and rich with seniors. Finch thinks the four teams representing the league in the playoffs -- Palisade, Moffat County, Glenwood and Rifle -- all have the opportunity to win Saturday, but he isn't pleased that Steamboat's football season is over.
Next year, Finch said, the Sailors want to be in the playoffs.