Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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The drive out to South Routt on Wednesday to watch the Soroco High School football team practice proved the point that outside perceptions of programs generally don’t mean much.
Many think it could be a tough year for football programs in Routt County. Along those lines, all three teams have a lot of questions to answer.
Hayden had a down year last season. Soroco lost two of its best athletes in Cody Miles and Alex Estes. Steamboat lost 19 starters from a team that went 13-1 last season and advanced to the Class 3A state championship.
Talking to each coach turned up something different. Of course, coaches are eternal optimists this time of year. They have to be. No team should go into the season thinking it’s going to lose.
But while talking to coaches, I was reminded of what might be the most important factor in sports.
Success breeds success.
It’s pretty simple. The teams that win generally have done it before, whether it’s wrestling at Hayden, basketball in Steamboat or track and field in Soroco. Those programs produce results, in part, because the teams before them did, as well.
It’s what Soroco coach David Bruner likes to call learning to win. When a team learns to win, it starts to do all the little things right. Work gets done in the offseason, close games turn into wins and it all leads to a successful season.
I had to be reminded of this point this week.
Certainly there are questions at all three programs. Can Hayden bounce back and get back to the playoffs? Who will play quarterback at Soroco? How will Steamboat respond to losing so many players from a once-a-decade type of team?
But history suggests the three schools have the ability to answer those questions. Why? Most important, the three have experienced lots of success in the past five years.
Hayden was a perennial power in Class 1A, making the playoffs a routine thing. The team is a year older and has the only returning starting quarterback of the three schools in uber-athletic Graig Medvesk.
The culture at Soroco has rapidly changed in the past four years. The program once was peaking into the grave before Bruner revamped it. With Miles and Estes earning college scholarships, the younger players realized they could do the same.
Steamboat has been to the playoffs five consecutive years. So despite the massive losses to graduation, there’s history there. Rival Glenwood Springs went through the same thing after the 2008 season and surprised everyone outside of its own locker room by making the playoffs last season. So it can be done.
Although it will play out on the field the next four months, each school can look to the past to help with the future.
Besides, if there is one thing in sports that we know to be true, it’s that success never goes unnoticed.