Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
For the most part, living in Steamboat Springs has made me cut off from the day-to-day work of being a Kansas State fan. It's more difficult to follow along when I can't read K-State stories in the paper or hear local sports radio hosts talk about the Wildcats. My best link is an online message board, but as with so many other such Web outlets, it's often filled with idiots and more frustration than it's worth.
That world came rushing back to me this week, however, when my esteemed colleague Luke Graham wrote an article about Steamboat Springs High School quarterback Austin Hinder's college recruitment. In it, he mentioned Hinder had an offer from Kansas State.
That news and links to his story made its way to the message board and suddenly, despite being a 10-hour drive from campus, friends and family were eager to know what I thought.
I didn't have much of an answer at first. I hadn't covered a Steamboat game all season. That changed Friday night as the Sailors battled Glenwood Springs.
Unfortunately, I still can't say much about Hinder's abilities. One of the problems with Glenwood is, they can make a team they're only marginally better than look foolish in a flash. The same way you don't fire a coach based on the score of his game against Texas Tech, you don't rate a player based on his performance against Glenwood Springs.
Hinder completed a crossing route to Alex Wood that went 73 yards for a touchdown on Steamboat's first possession. It was called back because of a penalty. A dropped pass - slightly high - stunted the ensuing drive, and from there, it was unfair to judge Hinder or the Sailors. Glenwood found the end zone every time they touched the ball until late in the fourth quarter.
The Demons defense sold out on the blitz against Hinder, and he spent the rest of the night throwing under pressure or trying to spin out of sacks. I did find something to pass along, however.
Hinder could have put on a heck of a show Friday. It could have been the biggest game of his season and, with a dazzling aerial performance, he might have sewn up a shot to play for nearly any school in the nation.
Losing the way it happened had to have been crushing on a personal level. Still, afterward, he ran - ran, not jogged or walked - over to shake hands and congratulate Glenwood's excellent quarterback, Dakota Stonehouse.
He congratulated Stonehouse again later as the two filed out of their respective locker rooms at about the same time, and he sought out the Glenwood coach with a similar message. He did it all with a smile wide enough and a laugh quick enough to convince me it was genuine.
I had never seen a top college prospect play at the high school level, and after Friday's game, I can't speak for what kind of Division I quarterback Hinder would make.
I can speak for how classy he acted afterward, though.