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All-weather fans

Nick Foster

Like many fans, parents and family members of the Steamboat Springs High School Sailors, Cheryll McKenzie went to every football game this season, home and away.

She loves watching the games and her son, outside linebacker Clay McKenzie, so much, she often finds herself plopped in front of the television with remote control in hand, fingers moving back and forth from play to rewind to slow-motion.

“We watch a game two or three times after we see the game in person,” Cheryll McKenzie said. “But we’d go around the world to see a game if we had to.

“The parents are dedicated and thrilled about this season. It’s been a special, unique experience to be a part of this.”

Susan Pappas, the mother of middle linebacker Charlie Pappas, said the Sailors’ football team was like a second family for the boys.

Parents at the Saturday playoff game versus

D’Evelyn agreed. They said this team has not only united their sons, but also many in the community with a special bond of love for the game, their team and each other.

“The families really support this team,” said Susan Pappas, who also has attended every game this season.

Many of the parents even rode together for away games, said Frank and Diane May, parents of quarterback David May. At home games, the same group of parents, friends and family have their informally reserved standing areas near the top of the stands.

“We’ve been standing here four years,” Frank May said about watching his senior son.

Doug Dombey, the father of wide receiver/cornerback Chris Dombey and center Kevin Dombey, said this Sailors team has the best chemistry of any team he has ever seen, and that chemistry has contagiously spread from the field to the stands, where hundreds dressed in red scream hysterically and ring cowbells for their boys.

“Nobody wants it to end,” Dombey said. “It gives us something we can all talk about with the parents and the kids.”

The season didn’t end Saturday as the Sailors shut out D’Evelyn at home, 22-0, to advance to the state 3A semifinals.

But the game was close in the first half, with just a 3-0 Steamboat lead at halftime. In the first quarter, Chris Dombey made a difficult one-handed catch for a big gain, which in turn got Doug Dombey a big hug from Mike Baumann, the father of offensive guard/defensive end Chris Baumann.

“A lot of us didn’t give this season much of a shot,” said Mike Baumann, who regretfully missed one game all season. “But this team found a way to win. It’s a real windfall for this school. I think the parent presence at games made an impact, but that’s just because the tenacity of these kids is so fun to watch.”

Barb and Randy Hurley, parents of Shea Hurley, who had a 70-yard catch and a touchdown in the third quarter, also said this was the best team they had seen in years.

“It’s not about one player,” said Barb Hurley after madly shaking her red cowbell. “It’s about team, not just during the game, but before and after, too. They have a lot of heart.”

Randy Hurley, who has walked the sidelines this season as mascot “Salty the Sailor,” said the parents come out to watch and support the Sailors and that many of them feel a real closeness to the team because they have watched them grow up. Randy even coached many of the players in soccer when they were as young as 5.

Wide receiver/free safety Lonny Radford’s grandparents were in the stands Saturday, as they often are. Joyce Radford said she comes to the games because the team makes it fun.

“I love this town for its support,” she said. “A lot of these fans out here don’t even have kids on the team.”

“Like us,” a fan said, turning around. “We’ll be here next year, even though we won’t have a kid on the team.”

“It’s something we talk about in anticipation all week,” said Lonny Radford’s mother, Lesa Radford. “It’s the best time with all the families knowing we’re on the same page.”

While the Sailors played, Susan Pappas prayed, saying, “Bless them Lord.” After the play, she turned and said: “(Coach Mark Drake) sets standards, and the kids rise to his standards. These guys are so well mannered and they have so much heart. He’s the reason they have heart and the reason they want to win — for him.”

— To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com


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