Heart can often beat the odds

What is heart ?

You hear coaches and sportswriters use the term all the time to describe a team's efforts on the field.

In sports, it is the word that separates winners from losers and sparks the drives that create those dramatic moments every sports fan lives to see.

It is the glue that binds some teams together and allows them to go further than anyone imagines.

There has been no better example of heart this season than the members of the Steamboat Springs High School boys soccer team, which came from behind to defeat Greeley Central 2-1 on Thursday night in a first-round state playoff game.

From the sidelines, former starters Sean Carlson and Dusty Atkinson watched the action unfold on the field.

Carlson ruptured his spleen in the first tournament of the season, and Atkinson went down after a nasty collision with a Battle Mountain goalkeeper Sept. 23 and broke his leg.

The Sailors also overcame an early season upset by Moffat County and two heartbreaking disappointments in the final stretch that cost the Sailors a league title.

So when the team fell behind Greeley Central 1-0 on Thursday, nobody would have blamed the Steamboat players if they simply lost heart and folded when confronted by the much larger school from Northern Colorado.

But they didn't.

The team's ability to respond in the face of adversity has become a rallying call for the Sailors this season. Adversity pulled the team together after Carlson went down in the Alexander Dawson Tournament.

Steamboat went on to win.

Adversity is an understatement for Atkinson's season-ending collision, one of the worst injuries I've ever witnessed in a high school sports contest.

Steamboat went on to win.

It's hard to tell just how far this team will go into the state playoffs. The odds are not in favor of Steamboat, which is one of the smallest schools in the 4A division. Steamboat has an enrollment of about 650 students, but in the next couple of weeks, the team will face schools well more than 1,000 students as the squad makes its way down the road to a state title.

But I wouldn't bet against the Sailors.

The team has proven its heart is big enough to beat these larger teams and to overcome those bumps in the road that could derail some of the strongest programs in the state.

As Atkinson hobbled along the sideline on crutches Thursday night, Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann asked the player how things were going.

Atkinson looked up at his coach and replied, "I'm just about ready to get back in there, coach."

To which the coach said, "Then you had better go get your stuff." The two laughed and went back to watching the game.

The exchange was a good example of the kind of heart the Sailors have shown this year, regardless of whether they're winning or losing.

For them, heart isn't about winning a state title -- although it would be nice. No, heart is that desire to get out on the field and play a game they love.

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