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Coal Ridge soccer state championship hopes thwarted by Peak to Peak

Coal Ridge soccer’s brilliant state championship run came to an end Wednesday evening after suffering a 2-1 loss to Peak to Peak in the 3A semifinals at Jeffco Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.

The 7th-ranked Pumas were coming off a quarterfinal upset over second-ranked Jefferson Academy while the third-ranked Titans were flying high off their 4-3 win over 22nd-ranked Middle Park.

“I think that we had the opportunities to make it happen and we just fell short,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Michael Mikalakis said. “We outplayed them. We just weren’t able to outscore them.”

Coal Ridge soccer ends the 2022 season having lost just two games all season while nabbing 14 wins. Meanwhile, Peak to Peak prepares to take on first-ranked Colorado Academy, a team that’s already recorded two shutouts in the 3A state tourney, in the championship game Saturday.

Wednesday’s game was as dramatic — if not more dramatic — as Coal Ridge’s previous two playoff matches. Titans senior Ezra Williams hit two crossbars on two free kicks outside of the 18. Titans junior goalkeeper, Jorge Kestler, collected five great saves just in the first half alone. The game was tied 1-1 with less than two minutes to play.

Coal Ridge sophomore Brayden Dacuma brings it upfield against Peak to Peak on Wednesday.
Courtesy photo/Fil Marez

Adding to the insanity was an otherworldly play by Titans senior Ethan Stickler.

With the game still scoreless midway through the second half, Pumas junior, Matthew Wolsko, was given a yellow card — the Pumas’ third of the game. This set up Stickler for a free kick at least 50 yards away from Pumas senior goalkeeper Logan Hughes. 

The distance didn’t matter to Stickler, who miraculously booted the ball over everyone’s heads and it somehow ended up in the net.

Less than two minutes later, Peak to Peak freshman Micah Thengvall blasted a free kick just outside the 18 past Kestler, tying the game at 1 apiece.

At the 7-minute mark, Williams had a chance to take a 2-1 lead on a free kick outside the Pumas’ 18 but ended up hitting his second crossbar of the night.

“We need to make sure that when we’re controlling possession on defense, we’re stepping in, closing the gaps, and I think when we did that well,” Mikalakis said. “We were in control, and we created a lot of opportunities.”

Peak to Peak responded with a heavy offensive zone presence in the last 5 minutes of regulation. Kestler continued to keep the ball out of his net, however, making a great stop on Pumas senior Chase Peterson at the 2-minute mark.

But at the 1:26 mark, Thengvall collected his second goal of the night by getting a slow roller past Kestler, and the go-ahead goal ended up being the game winner for Peak to Peak.

“We talk to our kids about how do you win and how do you lose and making sure you keep playing no matter what the situation is,” Mikalakis said. “I’m proud of how George took that on his shoulders.”

“I can’t tell you how many but he made a ton of great saves, and he had his hands on that one but it just rolled through.”

The Coal Ridge Titans end the season with 14-2-2 record.

“I’m super proud of how the boys played and held themselves throughout the entire year,” Mikalakis said.

Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams dribbles the ball against Peak to Peak during a state tourney semifinal in Lakewood on Wednesday.
Courtesy photo/Fil Marez

The Titans lose 10 seniors, including players like Williams, Stickler, Filberto Marez and Abraham Roman. But returning next year are key players like Alexis Serna, Giovanni Parker and Kestler, all pivotal players during Coal Ridge’s state tourney push this season.

Having this playoff experience helps for the younger players stepping up next season. But more importantly, it’s how they’ll use those skills instilled by senior leadership this year, Mikalakis said.

“They really have created and established who we are as a program and what we’re looking for every single day,” Mikalakis said of his seniors. “It’s not about the wins and losses for us. It’s about how much we have a family on the pitch and off the pitch.”

“That comes from our senior leadership, and it bleeds through these young guys. Hopefully, they carry that on to the next season.”

Coal Ridge soccer stud Ezra Williams inspired while living in Uganda

Ezra Williams was living in Uganda on a religious mission when he discovered what many call the beautiful game. 

“It’s the everyday culture,” Williams said. “You go home, listen to the game on the radio and play on the dirt fields. It’s every aspect of life there.”

Williams is a high school senior and a leading force on Coal Ridge’s sizzling soccer team. On Wednesday, the Titans breezed by Sierra 3-1 to win the opening round of the 2022 Colorado High School Athletics Association State Championships.

No more than 15 minutes into the game, Williams notched his 25th goal of the season via a highlight reel header, he hoisted past the opposing team’s goalkeeper.

Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams charges after the ball while playing Sierra on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Williams is originally from New Castle but moved to Uganda with his parents when he was 5. When he came back to the Colorado River Valley when he was 10, he brought back with him Uganda’s fanatical infatuation with soccer.

“That really started to develop my love for the game,” Williams said. “Seeing the kids play it, it was pretty impactful for me, and it made me want to learn that as well.”

Williams’ embryonic stages of soccer success were also influenced greatly by his father, Kenneth Williams, Coal Ridge’s assistant coach and a former professional soccer player. Kenneth grew up playing soccer in Liberia, then playing collegiate soccer for Louisiana College (now called Louisiana Christian University) before competing in professional ball in Nepal.

Perhaps this is why it’s no surprise Coal Ridge soccer has only lost one game all season and heads into next week’s second-round playoff against Faith Christian seeded third in the all the 3A/2A League.

It’s taken clutch play after clutch play by the cleats of Williams and his pass-accurate and highly reliable teammates. During the match against Vail Mountain earlier this year, he netted a late-game goal to salvage a tie. A more recent derby against Rifle, Williams hit the game winner with 10 minutes remaining.

“You know, whenever I see the time starting to tick down and we’re losing, the one thing that goes through my head is, someone needs to make this happen,” Williams said. “And it’s me stepping up into that role.”

As to what a game-winner feels like?

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said. “When that happens it makes me think of what’s going into that moment — the work we put into being able to enjoy those moments. It’s also a reminder that it’s not something that I do alone.”

Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams heads a ball during game against Sierra at home Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Both Williams and Coal Ridge head coach Michael Mikalakis credit their defensive line, Derrick Centeno and Zion Williams, and midfielder Josh Chamarro for their undeniable efforts in stopping the ball downfield and shipping upfield like it’s UPS overnight. Chamarro and fellow teammate Alexis Serna have combined for 20 assists so far this season.

When they get the ball to Williams, it’s like clockwork ballet style.

“He makes the stops that we need, and he’s able to get us a goal or two when we definitely need it,” Mikalakis said. “He’s dependable, he’s a great competitor and he definitely puts a lot of pride in the team over himself.”

“It’s not his goals —it’s the team’s goals that help the team win.”

Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams talks to coaches near the sidelines before Wednesday’s home game against Sierra.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Mikalakis has head coached soccer at Coal Ridge for the past 10 years. He said, “It’s awesome to have an opportunity to be a part of a group of kids that are both excited to play and have the ancillary talent to compete.”

Williams agrees. But with the second-round match against Faith Christian just around the corner (game is Tuesday at Coal Ridge, game time is likely 3:30-4 p.m.), he’s more focused on what happens on the pitch next week. 

“The confidence is high, the expectations are high. Reflecting on last year, the loss in the first round to a pretty low seed brings back memories of that,” Williams said. “At the same time, it’s recognizing we’re the No. 3 seed and we have a job to do.”

Coal Ridge advances to second round of state tourney with 3-1 win over Sierra

Red hot Coal Ridge soccer brushed by Sierra 3-1 Wednesday to nab a first-round state tourney win.

Heading into the 2022 Colorado High School Athletics Association State Championships seeded third, the Titans now take on 19th-seeded Faith Christian on Tuesday. The Eagles are a 7-7-2 team, and they ended the regular season in fifth place in the 3A/2A Metro League.

The Titans’ 2022 exploits so far consist of losing just one game all year and topping the 3A/2A Western Slope chart, and they demonstrated this intimidating fact against Sierra.

Coal Ridge senior Filberto Meraz takes the ball past Sierra goalie Selson Pena-Valdovines on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Around 15 minutes into the first half, Coal Ridge sophomore Brayden Dacuma passed a floater from outside Sierra’s penalty box. Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams, going into the game with 24 goals on the season, connected on that floater on the opposite end of the field, heading the ball past Sierra goalkeeper Selson Pena-Valdovines.

“It was a beautiful cross,” Coal Ridge head coach Michael Mikalakis said. “Ezra can be a dynamic scorer, so coming down that touch line and playing that ball really exposed their defensive line.”

The Stallions responded in the second half by capitalizing on an easy look after a collision inside Coal Ridge’s penalty box left Titans junior goalie Jorge Kestler down and out.

“We controlled possession, we had multiple shots on goal and we couldn’t get things to drop for us,” Mikalakis said. “(Sierra) came out and they played really strong in the second half and were really attacking.”

Sierra goalie Selson Pena-Valdovines leaps for the ball amid two Coal Ridge Titans on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Tied 1-1 with 15 minutes left in the second half, Coal Ridge senior Filberto Meraz found himself on a one-on-one breakaway and snuck the ball past Pena-Valdovines in the corner of the net to put the Titans up 2-1.

Later in the half, Coal Ridge junior Alexis Serna punched the ball in and cleaned up the trash after Pena-Valdovines gave up a rebound in the box. The goal would nail the coffin on Sierra and send the Titans to the second round.

“We played a great possession game, we had a lot of opportunities, and it really lit a fire under them once we got scored on,” Mikalakis said. “You could see a difference in the level of intensity to make sure they got the win.”

Coal Ridge junior Alexis Serna tries to evade a Sierra defender Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Up next, Faith Christian.

“We’ll watch the video, and hopefully, get three good practices to where we can learn from the things that we need to correct from our last game,” Mikalakis said. “We don’t really worry about the next game that’s coming up. We worry more about playing our game and making sure that we execute.”

The Titans are now 13-1-2 overall.

PHOTOS: Coal Ridge’s 2-1 win over Rifle

Photos from Coal Ridge’s win over Rifle on Oct. 20.

Rifle Bear Dominik Pacheco leaps through the air to attempt blocking the shot on goal by Coal Ridge Titan Ezra Williams during last Thursday’s game at Coal Ridge High School.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Coal Ridge Titan Javier Caro attempts to get the ball past defending Rifle Bear Favian Ponce during last Thursday’s game at Coal Ridge High School.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rifle Bear Jeff Torres and Coal Ridge Titan Ezra Williams fight for possession of the ball during last Thursday’s game at Coal Ridge High School.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Grizzlies hockey goes undefeated and wins Vail tourney

Glenwood Springs Grizzlies 18U Hockey shot off to a stellar start to the 2022 season by going undefeated and winning the 43rd Annual Vail Sportsmanship Tournament Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

“One of our team objectives was to get stronger as the tournament progressed,” Grizzlies coach Tim Cota said. “That objective was certainly achieved on Sunday.”

The Grizzlies won five of six games played, tying IND Summit Tigers 1-1 in game five of the tournament. Glenwood Springs ended the tourney, however, outsourcing their opponents 19-5.

Glenwood Springs came back and bested Summit 5-1 in the championship game. 

Grizzlies coach Nick Senn talks with his team.
Courtesy/TK Kwiatkowski

Leading scorer for the Grizzlies was Ryder Rondeau, notching 7 goals and 1 assist. Grizzlies goaltender Marek Senn produced a .75 goals against average and a .969% save percentage.

Grizzlies player Ian Cole said they progressed through the weekend by starting to finish when it comes to scoring goals.

“In our first game, we had tons of opportunities to score but could only capitalize twice besides an empty net goal,” he said. “In the finals, we were really putting it all together and managed five (goals).”

Rondeau, joining Glenwood Springs from Aspen, scored his first goal as a Grizzly, which turned out to be a game winner. Cole noted this as one of the tournament highlights.

Grizzly player Jack Fry in warmups.
Courtesy/TK Kwiatkowski

Aspen players have been coming to Glenwood now that its varsity program was placed on hold this year.

“Our attitude on the bench was fairly good despite not being able to score as much as we could’ve,” Cole said. “I’m looking forward to the next two tournaments to see more competition in preparation for (the) Demon season.”

The Grizzlies started last week’s tournament with a 3-1 win over out-of-state-team Las Vegas Storm. Glenwood also went on to beat Mullen and Vail on the road to the championship.

Cota said Glenwood had line-up obstacles to overcome, with new line mates and changes, but the team handled it in stride well, and that their maturity developed nicely.

Grizzly Player Ian Cole skates with trophy to finish out a tournament in Vail.
Courtesy/TK Kwiatkowski

“At times, our sense of urgency seemed to be lacking, but, at one point or another, someone was able to bring a spark. Whether that was our tendies, defensemen or forwards, it was definitely a balanced effort.”

Fellow Grizzlies coach Nick Senn said it was a great weekend for the team to start building chemistry.

“We now are getting kids from four different school districts, so there is a bit of adjusting to each other,” he said. “It is also exciting going into the season knowing that the Glenwood teams are going to have the luxury of depth of talent that we haven’t had in the past.”

Cole agreed.

“It was exciting to win this tournament because we know we can handle our local competition in the coming high school season and push for a state title this year.”

Rifle falls to undefeated Basalt, 22-7; and other weekend preps results

Rifle football has faced some tall tests so far this season. Dangerous teams, like Glenwood Springs, Moffat County and Delta. 

With the exception of the Panthers, each game against these teams for Rifle ended in a close loss via touchdown or less. Meanwhile, the Bears beat teams like Brush and Montezuma-Cortez.

“This is probably the longest gauntlet I’ve been on with a team,” Rifle head coach Ryan Whittington said.

On Friday night, the Bears had to take on another powerhouse: undefeated Basalt. Though the Longhorns won, it was by a conservative 22-7 differential.

A host of Rifle Bears tackle Basalt senior Cooper Crawford on Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Whittington said his team, for the most part, played disciplined football. Had it not been for a few big plays executed by Basalt, it could’ve been a different ball game.

“That was the three-play difference in the game, and sometimes you have to stop those plays to be able to get yourself a little bit closer,” he said. “But, we’ll watch the tape, we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better.”

The usual suspects were at it for the Longhorns. Basalt running back Cooper Crawford — a 6 foot, 3-inch, 220-pound senior who also plays linebacker — was good for an-up-the-gut touchdown at 6:39 in the second quarter.

Longhorns senior quarterback Kade Schnieder connected with trusty senior receiver Luke Rapaport for an 18-yard touchdown catch.

Longhorns senior Will Keating also hit two field goals.

Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said his kids played their hearts out.

“I thought coach (Mitch) Levy and coach (Clayton) Peetz did an amazing job on the offense,” he said. “I just think our kids are flying around, playing great football.”

Basalt receiver Dylan Madden gets tackled by a Rifle defender on Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

But, tip your hat to Rifle defense. They held the potent offense of Basalt to a field goal on the game’s opening drive. They also caused the Longhorns to punt multiple times throughout the night.

Every time Crawford got the ball, it was as if the entire Bears line were on top of him. Whenever Schneider dropped back to pass, his receivers were well covered and he was forced to toss to the sidelines.

Rifle senior running back Nicholas Saldivar rewarded his defense. At 11:31 in the second quarter, Saldivar took a hand-off from his own 27-yard line, juked his way past a host of Longhorns and sprinted for a 73-yard touchdown run.

“It was incredible, man,” Whittington said of Saldivar’s play. “Nico made a great cut, the O-line did a great job blocking, and he bustled down the sidelines.” 

Trialing 7-9, the Bears created a chance to take the lead. After forcing a Longhorns punt, they’d march downfield to Basalt’s 32-yard line. But an offensive holding call on the Bears kept them from the end zone.

Rifle senior Nicholas Saldivar evades Basalt defenders and moments later breaks away for a long touchdown run Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Making another push early in the fourth quarter, Bears junior quarterback Logan Gross was intercepted by Longhorns sophomore Taylor Hays. This easily could’ve led to a touchdown had intended Bears senior receiver Brandon Marques not been picked off. 

The loss gives the Bears a 2-4 overall, 0-2 league record. They currently sit in fifth place in 2A League 6, while Basalt is at the top. The Bears are 12th in all of 2A.

But, the Bears still have a fighting chance for postseason glory. They face Aspen, Grand Valley and Coal Ridge to close out the final three games of the season.

“Right now, we’re sitting 12th, and we just lost to an undefeated team, so your (ratings power index) is not going to hurt much,” Whittington said. “The reality is, I think if you win these three games you’re in.

Rifle receiver Joel Valencia blocks a Basalt defender Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“But, we’ve got to make sure we’re staying together, we’re doing the right things, staying positive and keep working hard to become the best we possibly can be.”

Basalt, now 6-0 and sitting in sixth place overall in 2A, prepares for a joust with a 5-1 overall, 2-0 league team in Moffat County. The Bulldogs are led by senior stud running back Evan Atkin.

“They’re doing a great job over there. (Evan Atkin) is one heck of a player,” Frerichs said. “But, we’re gonna enjoy this game tonight, and we’ll get ready for Moffat tomorrow.”

“But, we’re glad to be right there for the league championship next week.”

Rifle takes on Aspen away at 7 p.m. Friday.

OTHER RECENT PREP SCORES

FOOTBALL

Friday

  • Roaring Fork (Homecoming) beat Olathe, 42-6 (Rams rushing touchdowns: Zane Garcia and Max Bollock, 2 each; Oscar Barraza and Cooper Chacos, 1 each)
  • Grand Valley beat Aspen, 29-7 (Cardinals touchdowns: Brandon Garcia, 2; Colton Clark, 1
  • Coal Ridge lost to Moffat County, 48-6
  • Glenwood Springs, game scheduled Thursday canceled

VOLLEYBALL

Saturday

  • Coal Ridge lost 3-1 to Olathe (22-25, 19-25, 27-25, 20-25)
  • Grand Valley lost 3-0 to Plateau Valley (16-25, 12-25, 21-25)

Friday

  • Rifle beat Grand Junction, 3-1 (25-15, 25-11, 22-25, 25-11)
  • Grand Valley lost 3-0 to Meeker (25-10, 25-14, 25-14)

Thursday

  • Glenwood Springs lost 3-2 to Steamboat Springs (27-25, 20-25, 25-21, 20-25, 10-15)

SOFTBALL

Saturday

  • Rifle beat Durango in a double header on the road, 7-2 and 11-5
  • Basalt won 15-5, and lost 19-7 in a double header vs. Gunnison

Friday

  • Rifle swept Montezuma-Cortez in doubleheader, 11-7 and 18-8

BOYS SOCCER

Saturday

  • Roaring Fork beat Rifle, 3-2 (RF goals: Emiliano Magana, 2; Fernando Rodrigues, 1. Rifle goals: Eduardo Espino, 2)

Friday

  • Coal Ridge tied Vail Mountain, 1-1

Thursday

  • Roaring Fork beat Delta, 6-0 (Goals: Emiliano Magana, 3; Eli Cohen, Jacob Barlow and Gabe Serson, 1 each)
  • Rifle beat Aspen, 5-0 (Goals: Adrian Valencia and Miguel Torres, 2 each; Yahir Marquez, 1)

Preps roundup: Parker, Connerton-Nevin win big at Demons XC Invitational; Glenwood Springs sweeps at Front Range volleyball tourney

Two weekends, two wins for Glenwood Springs High School senior cross-country runner Sophia Connerton-Nevin, who ran away from the field on a brand-new home course to win the girls race at Saturday’s Demon XC Invitational.

Running on a mix of grassy soccer fields, mountain bike single-track trails, dirt roads and paved paths on the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus, she took over early and finished well ahead of Rifle sophomore Ana Robinson, taking the win in 21 minutes, 55.8 seconds.

Robinson, at 23:26.1, scored a second-straight second-place finish. She was also runner-up at last week’s Coal Ridge Invitational.

“The atmosphere was great, and our coaches put on an amazing race,” said Connerton-Nevin, who also won the Division 2 race at last week’s Liberty Bell Invitational in Littleton.

“I was really happy with my run and my team. I just love it whenever they’re here to support me. It pushes me to do my best,” she said.

Glenwood Springs senior cross country runner Sophia Connerton-Nevin pushes the uphill en route to the win at the Demons XC Invitational on the grounds of the CMC Spring Valley campus Saturday morning.
John Stroud/Post Independent

The Lady Demons placed runners in the eight (Cate Simpson, 25:38.8), 10 (Taia Nykerk, 25:47.4), 11 (Katrina Gillen, 25:52.4) and 12 (Emma Thornal, 25:59.3) spots to earn the team title, 38 points to Eagle Valley’s 49.

Coal Ridge was third as a team with 66 points. Senior Marilyn Stephens led the Lady Titans, finishing sixth in 25:30.2. Senior Gwynn Apostolik was ninth in 25:39.4.

In the boy’s race, Coal Ridge senior Tyler Parker held on to win in 19:10.1, just over 14 seconds ahead of Palisade’s Zenon Reece (19:24.8). Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s Ben Oldham was third in 20 minutes flat, and teammate Tristan Trantow was fourth in 20:19.9.

Parker had a strategy for pacing himself on the rugged, hilly CMC course.

“With that single-track, you’re kind of flying downhill, and, then, you have a nice flat on the bottom to recover before you hit that big uphill,” he said. “I just wanted to go quick for those first two miles and make up some time early because I knew that uphill was going to hurt.”

Eagle Valley won the boys team title with 63, followed in close order by host Glenwood Springs with 69. Sophomore Tanner Merritt was the Demons’ top finisher, in sixth with a time of 20:56.1. Coal Ridge senior Dylan Campbell was fifth in 20:49.9, and Titans teammate junior Dallin Karren was seventh in 21:06.3.

Connerton-Nevin and Parker said they both feel like they’re right where they want to be at this point in the season.

“I feel really good, and I’m excited for the rest of the season,” Connerton-Nevin said, adding she looks forward to the faster courses coming up, including the Delta Pantherfest at Confluence Park on Sept. 30. “I’m looking forward to that, where I’ll be running against some really fast girls who can push me.”

Same for Parker.

“I’m ready for some flatter courses where I can maybe get a PR (personal record) because we’ve been doing a lot of hilly courses,” he said.

The Titans boys and girls are at the Emma Coburn Elk Run in Crested Butte next weekend.

Weekend preps results

Girls volleyball: Glenwood Springs improved to an impressive 9-1 on the young season, sweeping the slate at a Front Range tournament Friday and Saturday, 2-0 over George Washington (25-15, 25-9); 2-0 over Wheat Ridge (25-12, 25-13); 2-1 over Littleton (25-19, 20-25, 15-13); and 2-0 over Sheridan (25-4, 25-7).

Boys soccer: On Saturday, it was Crested Butte 10-0 over host Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale; Liberty Common 6-1 over host Roaring Fork, also in Carbondale; and Basalt 1-0 at home over Middle Park.

Basalt remains undefeated with 28-12 win over Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs, fresh from a win over Rifle last week, faced its biggest test so far this season Friday night: undefeated Basalt. Away.

Maybe they had jitters facing one of the 2A League’s top-ranked teams in Colorado. Maybe it’s because lightning concerns delayed kickoff by 40 minutes. Or, maybe, it’s because it pretty much rained all night.

Whichever the case, multiple botched snaps, offensive offsides and defensive encroachment penalties created a not-so-perfect storm for Glenwood Springs in the first half.

Though the likes of Demons speedsters Marcos Aragon and Joaquin Sandoval tried valiantly to even the score in the second half, Glenwood would suffer their second loss of the season, 28-12.

“It’s a huge rivalry for us, and the kids played their hearts out,” Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said. “We knew Joaquin is a heck of a quarterback. I couldn’t be more proud of my (defensive) ends, and my spies were on him all night.” 

Basalt, unsurprisingly, immediately cashed in on Glenwood’s first-half blunders.

It all began with Basalt’s opening drive. Marching downfield to Glenwood’s red zone, Basalt senior quarterback Kade Schneider completed a short touchdown pass to senior receiver Dylan Madden.

Next possession, Glenwood offense committed an offside penalty on third down. They punted. Schneider intercepted to Sandoval on the following possession. The very next play, Sandoval intercepted to Basalt junior linebacker Mav Dombrowski.

The Longhorns responded with an up-the-gut touchdown bash by 6-foot, 3-inch, 215-pound senior running back Cooper Crawford. Basalt led 14-0 at 7:10 in the second quarter.

“It’s his birthday today, he’s a great kid, and many 2A schools don’t have a 215-pound running back there,” Frerichs said. “We’re getting happier and happier because he’s running downhill.”

Basalt senior Cooper Crawford rushes against Glenwood Springs defenders during a home game Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Two consecutive bad snaps later, Glenwood again had to punt, and, soon, Schneider was quarterback-sneaking Basalt’s third touchdown of the game at the 2:32 mark. The score locked in a 21-0 lead for the Longhorns heading into halftime.

This didn’t deter any second-half determination for Glenwood Springs. Despite rain fluctuating between tolerably light and a heavy “Let’s go home” downpour, a fire somehow ignited underneath the Demons.

Glenwood Springs head coach Thor Jensen said he told his players at halftime to play with heart and prove they can play football.

“I mean, 21 points — the way we play offense — we should be able to overcome,” he said. 

At 7:20 in the third quarter, Aragon took a handoff from Sandoval at their own 41-yard line, juked Basalt defenders out of their cleats and burned downfield for a 59-yard rushing touchdown.

“All our kids didn’t quit,” Jensen said. “They came out in the second half and decided they wanted to figure things out.”

Glenwood Springs senior Marcos Aragon runs downfield toward the end zone against Basalt on Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“The first half, I don’t know what happened. We need to figure out how to get off the bus better.”

Glenwood Springs defense then came up huge on three occasions. Next possession they forced Basalt into a fourth-down situation and an inevitable punt. Sandoval then capitalized on the opportunity, scoring on a long rush downfield.

Down 21-12 to start the fourth, Glenwood defense forced another fourth-down situation for the Longhorns. Basalt again punted. Glenwood offense again marched downfield in response. But, then, they fumbled.

Basalt offense responded by getting to Glenwood’s 8-yard line, and guess what? Glenwood defense stuffed the stout Crawford on fourth down and again regained possession.

But, Glenwood’s offense was kept from scoring anymore touchdowns. At 3:44 left in the game, Crawford rushed for his second touchdown of the game and, later, sacked Sandoval twice to put the joust to bed. 

The 3A Demons are now 2-2 overall and host a non-league game against Grand Junction Central at 7 p.m. Friday. After that, they have a bye week and then prepare for their first 3A League 3 game of the season against Battle Mountain (0-4).

“(We’ll) repair the damage. That was a physical game,” Jensen said. “We gotta go figure out where everybody is and get our heads straight. Central is going to bring it.”

“It’s homecoming, so that will be cool.”

The Longhorns are now 4-0. They host Grand Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.

PREPS SCORES FROM FRIDAY

• Roaring Fork beat Clear Creek, 44-0; junior quarterback Max Bollock was 11-for-19 passing for 244 yards and had three touchdowns and two interceptions on the night. He also ran for 142 yards. On defense, junior Cooper Spencer recorded eight tackles on the night, six solo. Senior Zane Garcia picked off two passes for 51 yards. 

• Rifle lost to Delta, 20-0

• Coal Ridge lost to Salida, 35-6

(Note: Grand Valley plays Manual at 1 p.m. Saturday.)

Preps roundup (updated): Rifle softball rebounds for win after a pair of losses

The Lady Bears softball team of Rifle High School notched one in the win column Thursday, 13-1 at Cedaredge, to move to 8-2 on the season.

The win came on the heels of a pair of tough losses for the Bears, 11-1 to 4A league foe Palisade on Tuesday, and 8-0 to Conifer during a tournament on Sept. 9. The Bears also won 15-9 over Liberty in that same tournament.

On Thursday, Rifle carried a 9-0 lead into the bottom of the third before the Bruins got on the board. The Bears added four more in the fourth to end it early on the mercy rule.

Junior Brooklyn Millius had three RBIs off two doubles, a single and a walk, and senior Hailey Worton had a double and three RBIs. Senior Taelia Jones and junior Blayke Hostettler combined for seven strikeouts from the mound, with Jones earning the pitching win.

In other softball action this week, on Tuesday it was the combined Roaring Fork District Basalt team winning big, 26-5, at Aspen.

Boys soccer: In Thursday action, Coal Ridge topped defending 3A state champs Roaring Fork 3-1 in New Castle; Glenwood Springs downed Palisade, 9-1; Rifle beat Basalt, 4-3; and CRMS defeated Caprock Academy, 5-4. On Tuesday, Grand Junction defeated Coal Ridge, 5-1.

Volleyball: On Thursday, it was Glenwood Springs coming from behind to win 3-2 at Steamboat Springs (24-26, 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 22-20); and Aspen defeating the visiting Roaring Fork Rams of Carbondale, 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23). On Tuesday, it was Olathe 3, Grand Valley 1 (28-26, 19-25, 25-19, 25-19); and Steamboat Springs 3, Coal Ridge 0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-19).

Glenwood Springs Demons football adds size, numbers in bid to shake up 3A football league

When the call went out over the summer from new Glenwood Springs High School head football coach Thor Jensen that the program needed to beef up its player numbers, team leaders talked it up.

Senior co-captain and veteran lineman Alex Cruz, in particular, knew some extra size on the line could make a big difference if the Demons were to make a play for a top spot in the 3A League 3 (formerly Western Slope League) this season.

“I have a strong connection to my gym, 24/7 Colorado, and I knew some guys who workout there who could be a big help,” he said. “I started asking around and encouraged them to come out and play football.”

Some of those recruits had never played football before, and others hadn’t played since middle school or pee-wee football, he said.

“Now, they’re on the team playing line, and they’re doing pretty well,” Cruz said.

That extra size and protection up front has made a huge difference for playmakers and team co-captains, senior wide receiver and back Reece McMillan and junior quarterback Joaquin Sandoval.

“With the new offense and a strong line, it’s a super fast pace,” Sandoval said. “You have to get rid of the ball quickly and be able to read the defense.

“Now, it’s definitely more of a smart game, and coach knows what he’s doing, so we just have to trust in the process,” he said. “That takes time for sure, but we have to be patient.”

On the right track

The Glenwood Springs Demons co-captains Alex Cruz, Joaquin Sandoval and Reece McMillan meet in the center of the field for the coin toss at the beginning of last week’s rivalry game against the Rifle Bears.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Trust in the process paid off for the Demons the past two weeks, as they won their home opener in convincing fashion, 41-27, over 3A rival Conifer and pulled off the 34-27 win over perennial 2A powerhouse Rifle in last week’s cross-county rivalry game.

A 21-13 overtime loss at Grand Junction to start the season on Aug. 25 was a learning experience for the team, McMillan said.

“Switching coaches is definitely a challenge for any team, but we knew we needed to have patience and to work with what we’ve got,” he said. “It’s been a good transition, and we’re looking great.”

McMillan and Sandoval also did their part to talk it up among some of the younger students. The result is a varsity roster with more than 50 players, and a fanbase that’s jazzed about the season prospects.

The 2-1 Demons travel up Colorado Highway 82 on Friday night to take on the undefeated Basalt Longhorns, who come in ranked fourth in the state among 2A teams. Glenwood hasn’t quite cracked the top-10 in the 3A rankings but has been getting some votes.

“We’re always looking to have more kids come out for football which, unlike other sports, the more the merrier,” Jensen said. “Numbers make the world go around in football, so we can have the skill positions and special teams without moving guys around as much.”

His co-captains and the team as a whole have also been willing to buy into a new system and exercise patience in learning some new things, said Jensen, who replaced former Glenwood coach Pat Engle when he stepped down after last season following four years at the helm.

“They learn, and they’re willing to put in the time,” Jensen said. “I think we’re finally where we want to be with our offense right now, as long as they have the ability to stick with what’s going on, stay patient and trust that this is going to work.”

Perseverance

Glenwood Springs Demon Alex Cruz listens in to coach Thor Jensen after last week’s game against the Rifle Bears.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Patience has been a theme for the Demons and a lot of high school sports teams for the past three years — a stretch of time that saw altered seasons and challenging playing conditions during the pandemic.

For the 2020-21 school year, Glenwood Springs opted to play in the one-off spring season in a reformatted league that combined several 2A and 3A teams from the Western Slope that didn’t play in the optional fall season. 

The short-schedule season saw Glenwood win the league at 7-1 — the only loss coming in the playoffs to eventual spring season champion Rifle.

A return to the traditional fall season and the normal slate of 3A league teams for the 2021-22 year resulted in a lackluster 5-5 output and no trip to the playoffs.

Still, McMillan said he knew the team had a lot of potential.

“We basically had two seasons of football in a matter of six or seven months, and it just felt good to be out there playing,” he said. “We worked hard every day, and a lot of it was just getting back into that mindset.

“This season, we have goals just like we do every season. We know what we want to do and what we want to accomplish.”

That delay in Sandoval’s freshman season might have worked to his advantage from a player development standpoint.

“It’s all about strategy and development, being smart and having a high IQ for football,” said the junior standout who is a threat both passing and running, managing the plays and looking for interceptions on the defensive side of the ball. 

He had a pick-6 interception against Rifle last week.

Glenwood Springs Demon Joaquin Sandoval and Reece McMillan leap in an attempt to intercept the ball during last week’s game against the Rifle Bears.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“Last year was a little bit rough, but I think this year we’re coming in with a different mindset,” Sandoval said. “We know what we want, and it’s all about the team coming together to make that happen.”

Sandoval, who transferred from Basalt to Glenwood Springs schools his eighth-grade year, said he is ready to play for bragging rights against some of his former youth league and middle school teammates on Friday.

“Definitely, it’s become kind of a personal game for all of us,” he said. “It’s a fun rivalry, and it’s always fun to go up there and show them what we can do.”

Making a play for the title in the tough 3A league, where Durango and Summit are the favorites, will take teamwork, Cruz said.

“We’re not a one-man team; it takes all 11 of us out there on the field,” he said. “We just have to play hard, play together and trust each other.”

Jensen notes the team has two more non-conference games Friday and next week, when 4A Grand Junction Central comes to town for the Demons’ homecoming game. Then there’s a bye, and the first league game at home Oct. 6 against Battle Mountain.  

“Right now, we just need to get through the next two games, hit the bye week and get people healthy before we start that league schedule,” Jensen said. 

Weekend preps schedule

FOOTBALL

Friday

Glenwood Springs @ Basalt, 7 p.m.

Roaring Fork vs. Clear Creek, 7 p.m.

Rifle @ Delta, 7 p.m.

Coal Ridge @ Salida, 7 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

Friday

Grand Valley vs. Vail Christian, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday

Glenwood Springs @ Front Range Tournament vs. George Washington, Wheat Ridge, Littleton and Sheridan

BOYS SOCCER

Saturday

Roaring Fork vs. Liberty Common, 9 a.m.

SOFTBALL

Saturday

Basalt @ Montezuma-Cortez, 11 a.m.

CROSS COUNTRY

Saturday

Glenwood Springs, Coal Ridge, Rifle and CRMS @ Demon Invitational, CMC Spring Valley soccer fields, 9 a.m.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.