Community connections made through sports

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Maybe this is what high school football is really all about.

It's about more than just two teams of 11 teenage boys on a field, tearing into each other as hard as they can.

No, high school football is about three elementary school kids named Spencer, Ian and Tyler walking to the football field on Saturday afternoon to watch a state quarterfinal playoff game between the Moffat County Bulldogs and the Florence Huskies.

They're sharing a warm blanket between them and Spencer says the Bulldogs have a pretty good chance of winning and he should know because he attends all of the home games and some of the away games when he can get a ride to them.

And high school football is about two dads, Keith Carr and Dennis Sanchez, standing in the high school parking lot, an hour and a half before game time, watching dark, ominous clouds obscure the southern horizon, hoping that the weather doesn't turn too ugly.

And while watching the sky, Carr doesn't appear nervous at all, because even though his son, Shea Carr, the defensive captain, has been sick the past week and is only feeling mediocre at best today, Carr knows that once he suits up, he'll play his best.

As a few early bird fans start to file in through the gate, snow flurries start. The temperature is 37 degrees.

So it's also about all the people in the parking lot braving the cold, pulling parkas over their heads, keeping the hunting clothes out for one more weekend because they're so warm, trying to fit that Bulldogs jersey on over all those warm layers.

It's about football mom Marianna Raftopoulos cooking a big batch of hot chili and a few dozen bratwursts for a tailgate party, so all those other nervous football parents can at least have something warm in their bellies to combat the cold since their nerves are basically shot until the game is over.

Like Raftopoulos said, when the community gets excited it helps the team win.

Of course everybody thinks his or her team will win, and so it's about the carefully considered predictions football fan Matt Dilldine makes while eating a bratwurst sandwich.

Wearing a smile of contemplation, Dilldine predicted a 21 to 12 Moffat County victory sending the Bulldogs to Steamboat Springs next weekend.

These folks, too, are part of high school football: A coal miner who used to live in Pittsburgh and who just loves to watch football, and an elderly gentleman who's lived in Craig for 49 years and has watched these games since his own children attended the old high school.

It's about those who aren't there but would like to be, like senior Jon Furman, who was working in the kitchen at Wendy's during the game, taking a break for one minute to say that his team has a good chance of winning, if the way the season has been going is any indication.

It's about the Wendy's marquee being changed from this week's special to "Go Bulldogs."

It's about all the cars with "Go Bulldogs" painted on their windows and tiny Bulldogs flags hooked to the roofs, and the people in those cars, sheltering from the cold.

But it's not just about the cars that say "Go Bulldogs." It's also about the opponents' cars that say "Go Big Dogs."

It's about the people that drove those cars from Florence to cheer their team on, and about the blue paw prints painted on their faces as they eat ham sandwiches while leaning against the tailgate of a pickup truck, or sitting in the trunk of an SUV.

So the Bulldogs lost, 33-13, and that matters to a lot of people. But the score is only more than four digits and a dash if you let it be. Otherwise, the community being together, for good times and with good hope, is worth much more than that.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhard@craigdailypress.com.

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