Melinda Mawdsley: Congrats to Sailors on a great season

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There were no tears. No helmets thrown of faces buried in hands.

There were only smiles.

"It was a good season," senior Thomas Allen said. "It was fun."

Seniors wish for memorable final seasons, and this year's Steamboat Springs class could fill a scrapbook.

Few teams in Sailors history have advanced to the state semifinals. Only the 1979 team won a state football championship.

"It's so hard to get here," Steamboat coach Aaron Finch said.

Rifle coach Damon Wells saw similarities in the teams that met in Saturday's semifinal. Neither came into the season with a wealth of experience, and they weren't overly impressive in August and early September.

Steamboat players deserve a lot of credit," Wells said.

Yeah, they probably do.

The Sailors never forgot what this season was supposed to be about: having fun. The wins simply followed.

The players and coaches sweated through two-a-day practices together. They defeated rival Moffat County together -- a highlight for Allen and senior Vince Grippa. On Saturday, they lost together, ending a season that began before school started in August.

"This was a great team," Finch said. "I'm going to miss the seniors."

Finch has coached this year's graduating class since they were eighth-graders. Their maturation as players has paralleled his evolution as a coach. Finch has gone from coaching junior high football to junior varsity to the head varsity position.

When he was hired, there was some uncertainty as to how he would do in his first head-coaching stint. By the end of his second year, Steamboat was in the semifinals.

He will credit his assistants and his players, because that's what his team does. Individuals take the blame but compliment their teammates when successful.

Looking back, Allen said, Steamboat probably overachieved this year, winning 10 games and making the Class 3A semifinals. But it's impossible to overachieve unless a team accomplishes something memorable along the way, and for that, Steamboat's players and coaches should be applauded for a remarkable 2005 campaign.

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