Steamboat Springs This year's seniors on the Steamboat Springs High School football team hold a special place in the heart of Sailors coach Aaron Finch.
The group came into the football program as freshmen when Finch took over at the high school four years ago.
Sunday, Finch said he couldn't quite quantify what this senior class meant to him and the program.
"I'm still working on that one a little bit," Finch said. "You don't imagine the negative outcome that you'll never coach that group again. It's one of those things with each individual's personality. This was our first freshmen class. You have strong feelings for each one of them."
Perhaps the best way to look at this senior class, Finch said, is to look at where this year's team has come.
In what Finch called the Sailors "JV game" against Kent Denver to open the season, the Sailors looked like half the team they became. Finch said Steamboat wouldn't have become the team that went on to make the playoffs without the seniors' leadership in helping young players make strides.
"That's a real testament to our seniors," Finch said. "Their leadership, attitude and everything else. It created an environment for the young guys to come in and take some risks."
While Saturday's season-ending loss against Fossil Ridge certainly was a sour note on a solid season, Finch said you can't roll an entire season into one game.
And he knows that next year, Steamboat will take the field with an exciting crop of special playmakers.
The possibilities of lining up Austin Hinder at quarterback, Fraser Egan and Joe Dover in the backfield and Alex Wood anywhere and everywhere make Finch think next year could be special.
Still, Finch said if the younger guys are to be successful next year, they must learn from the 2007 seniors.
"We have a lot of really talented young men coming up," Finch said. "It's a huge opportunity. It's all about how hard they want to work and how good they want to be to each other."
Although Finch still was struggling to get over the loss, two things specifically came out of the game that he was happy about.
After the game, a Fossil Ridge coach came in and expressed how Steamboat was the classiest team the SabreCats had played all year. Finch also expressed how pleased he was the Sailors didn't give up all game.
Those are two things Finch said he likes to base his program on.
"Winning and losing with class is something we preach over and over," Finch said. "They never quit. They never, never, never gave up. I'm really proud to be associated with all these guys - with all of them. The kind of young men they are and the kind of team they are going to be."
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229
or e-mail email@example.com