Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
It took a little more than a 1,000 words and a couple of hours to put together, but Friday, the fall sports schedule for Hayden, Soroco and Steamboat came together.
If today's practices didn't make it real, the more than 130 games and events spread across five pages sure did.
It's an exciting time where we search the archives for last year's stories, rekindle conversation with coaches and glance back at last year's rosters.
With each new season, new questions open up and new story lines unfold.
This year, here's one to follow for each team gearing up.
It should be an interesting year in Steamboat for the football team. There's no question the team will be athletic, but losing three-year starter Tanner Stillwell at quarterback as well as several starters on the offensive and defensive side of the ball will be tough to replace. With that said, if Steamboat can get through the first part of its schedule - they'll be one of the best teams in the league by the end of the year - the playoffs should be a reality.
In Hayden, this could be the year the Tigers hold the biggest game in November. They lost only two starters from a year ago, and with Coy Letlow returning at running back, the Tigers should be the favorites in the league. If they prove they can throw the ball - which they've worked on extensively this summer - Hayden will not only compete with the powerful five on the Eastern Plains, but could find themselves as one of the last four standing in Class 1A.
At Soroco, it should be interesting what new head coach David Bruner can do. Bruner's expected to air the ball out and no doubt has talent at the younger levels. But the big question is can Bruner get the Rams competitive this year? He proved to be quite the motivator during the track and field season. If he can duplicate that success with the football team, expect four or five wins.
Steamboat has five seniors from a team that played extremely well at times last year. With a league that's up for grabs - state champion Battle Mountain lost eight seniors - this year may come down to Steamboat and Moffat County. Steamboat returns gifted players Natalie Nichols, Lizzie Stoll and Kacey Bull. Here's saying Steamboat's the team to beat this year.
Hayden and Soroco find themselves in a much different position. Both schools lost seniors - Hayden with eight and Soroco with five. Still Hayden returns five players with experience including juniors Kylee Sweetser and Holli Salazar as well as sophomore Rachael Koehler. Soroco will look to build on a core group of seniors and juniors led by Sarajane Rossi. My guess is both teams finish near the middle of the pack.
While Steamboat lost All-State player Paul Berry and Tucker Campbell, don't count out the Sailors. With Michael Weston, Billy Taylor, Cody Fritz and Cam Fritz all having experience at the varsity level, expect Steamboat to be in the hunt at the regional tournament again. Plus, nobody dissects a course quite like coaches Steve Dodson and Scott Berry. My guess is Steamboat qualifies for state as a team once again.
This could be a Steamboat program ready to make a big stride. Although the team went winless last year they improved in each game played. With new coach Maggie Garcia, this could be a team to watch this year.
Depending on who the coach is and who competes, Steamboat should be competitive with Charlie Stoddard, Sam Chovan and Rachael Caires leading the team. While they'll be competitive, it will be tough to stay with defending state champion Battle Mountain, who lost only one runner from last year's team.
It's tough when a team loses 11 seniors, but if there's a team that can bounce back and compete, it's the Steamboat soccer team. With coach Rob Bohlmann running a good program and Eric Carlson, Daniel Wright, Kevin Bertrand and Bryce Peters back, expect Steamboat to compete with Battle Mountain and Glenwood Springs for the top spot in the league.
Steamboat's always good and with the league tournament and regional tournament at home this year, expect the team to qualify for the state tournament again. Once they get to state - I've already got it as a forgone conclusion - it'll be interesting to see how they do. It's no doubt the Sailors have several individuals - Ramsey and Jordy Bernard as well as Alex Gibbs and Jeff Lambart - who can win a state title. It's just a matter of producing.