PARACHUTE - Mike Johnson can't help but smile these days.
The Grand Valley High School football coach has watched his team reel off three consecutive victories to start the season, with one of them coming in convincing fashion against defending Class 2A Western Slope League champion Olathe this past Friday.
His team has outscored its opponents 139-26, including a 52-7 win against Olathe. And the Cardinals' 3-0 start overall (1-0 in league play) is a stark contrast from the previous two seasons, when they won three and four games, respectively.
For Johnson, however, there's a sense of realism through that smile.
"We're where we want to be right now," said Johnson, whose team returns home to play Gunnison at 7 p.m. Friday. "But our goal is to be humble and hungry."
Behind touchdown runs of 17 and 12 yards by Tanner Zimmerman, a 50-yard interception return for a score from Jacob White and a pair of 1-yard rushing TDs from quarterback Tyler Scott, the Cardinals took a 27-0 lead after one quarter against Olathe and never looked back. Each of their wins have been lopsided, including a 38-7 season-opening win over Meeker and a 49-6 win over Paonia one week later.
Add in the win against Olathe last week, and the Cardinals have a reason to feel like they are soaring.
"After we got up that big on Olathe in their homecoming, they just looked totally deflated," Johnson said. "Our kids didn't."
But Johnson and the Cardinals do realize how those teams have started the season. They're a combined 0-9 to start the season, leaving room for skepticism outside the program.
The Cardinals feel that's OK, though. There's no skepticism within the program.
"Sure, some of those teams might not be as good as they were last year," said Zimmerman, who was out of the lineup during the Cardinals' season-opening win against Paonia. "But the thing is we're doing what we need to do. To us, it doesn't matter what those records are, because we're going to be working hard to win that game whether we play Meeker or the state runner-up, Bayfield."
Zimmerman has been part of a big rushing duo with White, who ran for 162 yards against Paonia and 121 yards and three touchdowns at Meeker. The 6-foot-4 Scott has been effective passing the ball as well, completing 11-of-16 passes for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Paonia. Trent Reidel and Stephen Padilla each caught three passes in the Cardinals' first two games.
On Friday, the Cardinals face another winless team in Gunnison, and a win against the Cowboys could set up a big league showdown against Bayfield in Parachute on Sept. 28. Grand Valley, however, isn't about to start thinking ahead too far.
"This week's Friday night is where all of our focus is right now," Zimmerman said. "From there, we" "ll focus on other stuff."