Craig After each Moffat County High School football game, the Bulldogs knelt in a circle to accept criticism and accolades from head coach Kip Hafey and assistant coach Lance Scranton.
With the Friday night lights shining on 15 Bulldog seniors for the last time, the floor was theirs.
Most were smiling and looking at each other with gratitude. They talked about the positives, rather than the disappointment in a 3-7 final season.
Many of the juniors heaped out praise to the seniors' season long efforts.
They were thankful for the lessons learned and the chance to play with athletes they once looked up to.
The Bulldogs lost their season finale, 28-6, to host Rifle, but there was no player on the field feeling down.
Laughter echoed from the circle.
Chants of "next year" were heard from the boys in blue and white.
Hugs and high fives tempered the sting of sorrow and disappointment from a season-ending defeat.
Monday was much the same.
Sure, most players said they expected a different outcome to the year, but few would change it.
"We lost," senior Eli Buckner said. "We lost a lot. I had far greater expectations for our team. We finished 3-7. I was expecting more like 7-3, but it was still a fun year."
Buckner scored the final touchdown of the season for the Bulldogs, catching a 3-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Matt Linsacum.
He had been waiting all game for the opportunity to celebrate. The scoring celebration prompted a penalty flag from the officials, but that didn't matter to Buckner.
"It was worth it," he said. "I had planned that celebration all year. It was my last game."
Senior defensive tackle Travis Wilson was proud of his teammates despite the losing record.
"We overcame a lot of adversity this year," he said. "We did the best we could with the people we had. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to play the best that we possibly could every down of every game. We did that, so we have no regrets when we walk off that football field."
Senior linebacker Robert Daniels echoed the sentiments of his fellow defensive stalwart.
"It was a tough year for us mentally and physically," he said. "I don't know that we could have done anything different with what we had. I figured playoffs at the start of the year, but I'm happy with the way the team stuck it out. It didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but I wouldn't change what we learned this season one bit."
Senior tailback Matt Kincheloe was injured in Friday's loss. Sitting on the bench, he had a chance to reflect on the year gone by.
"I have no regrets about this year at all," he said. "I got a chance to play the game I love with the guys I love. What's better than that?"
John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org