John F. Russell: What high school sports are all about
October 12, 2008
Steamboat Springs — It wasn’t supposed to have been “the game.”
Sure, there are playoff implications, but you can say that about any league game in October. The truth is that this game wasn’t for a state title, the winner wasn’t expected to party like it was 1999, and nobody thought the loser would collapse on the field or shed a tear as they left the glossy synthetic grass of Gardner Field.
But when the Steamboat Springs High School soccer team faced Battle Mountain last Tuesday night in a key league match, it didn’t seem to matter what was at stake. For 80 minutes, both teams left their hearts on the field. In the end, players displayed the type of character that you might expect to witness in a state championship game.
For the Sailors, it was 10 minutes of pure joy, 53 minutes of comfortable control and 17 minutes of holding on to the lead like it was a roller coaster at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure.
After 10 minutes, the Battle Mountain players seemed to be looking on the back of their jerseys for the tracks of a train that just hit them. The Huskies then spent 53 minutes trying to find an offensive spark before 17 minutes of lock, load and fire. In the end, Tuesday night’s regular-season soccer game overwhelmed. It turned out to be well worth the price of admission for the cheering fans that packed the bleachers under the lights in Steamboat.
When the final whistle blew, expressions of happiness and relief were plastered across the faces of the Sailor players who had defeated one of the top teams in the Western Slope and kept their dreams of a league title alive for another day. The faces on the Battle Mountain side looked more like something you might find on Wall Street these days.
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But forget, just for a few minutes, who won and lost. Put aside the way this game might impact the playoff run down the stretch.
This game represented all that is great about high school athletics. It was a shining example of why young athletes in our community play games, and why we all should want to sacrifice a night of television to instead drop $5 ($3 if you are a student, or senior) and watch a high school game.
After the game, you might have expected the losing coach, Battle Mountain’s David Cope, to be bitter.
You might think he would question a tough call or point out how close his team came to tying the game in the final minutes – one of his players shots went just wide, struck the goal post and bounced harmlessly back into the field of play.
But he didn’t. Instead he left the field, and “the game,” with a much larger view.
“This was a great high school sporting event,” Cope said. “It’s an exciting league this year, and this is what high school sports should be all about.”