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PHOTOS: Rifle celebrates Bears’ state championship title

The Rifle Bears are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Fans cheer on the Rifle Bears as they are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Rifle Bears are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Rifle Bears are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Rifle Bear Embrey Marantino along with his teammates look towards cheering fans, friends and family during Wednesday's parade celebrating their 3A state title.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Rifle Bears are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Fans cheer on the Rifle Bears as they are escorted down Railroad Avenue during a parade to celebrate their 3A 2020-2021 state title which they won over the weekend after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 at CSU Pueblo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or cself@postindependent.com

Champions: Rifle Bears clinch state title

The Rifle Bears celebrate after defeating The Classical Academy 35-34 for the spring 3A state title in Pueblo on Saturday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rifle Senior Embrey Marantino had just finished the game with 201 yards and two touchdowns. Riding the bus back to Rifle, it took just two words for him to sum up how it felt to win the 3A state title:

Cloud Nine.

“Like, if you would’ve asked me two or three months ago if we would’ve even been in the playoffs, I would’ve said heck no,” Marantino added. “I didn’t even think we were going to make it to the playoffs, much less win the state final. But a lot of us have been playing since we were six and seven… we’ve been playing for a long time, and it’s just a very special brotherhood we share. We’re trying to prove how strong it is and just how amazing we’ve done and how much we can stick together, and that’s what really won it for us.”

It turned out to be an incredible turn of events for Rifle High School football.

After The Classical Academy offense came out swinging within minutes of the 3A title game beginning at Colorado State University in Pueblo on Saturday, the Bears kept their composure, stayed the course and eventually nabbed a nail-biting 35-34 win.

“It was hard fought for,” Rifle senior Kaden Wolf, who cheered from the sidelines due to an injury suffered against Glenwood Springs, told KMTS Radio after the game. “We love our town and we love our community.”

“Without a doubt, they picked it up,” Wolf added about his fellow running backs, junior Toto Fletchall and senior Marantino. “They played harder than I’ve ever seen them play.”

Down 20-13 going into the third quarter, the Bears would score two critical touchdowns over the first 14 minutes of the second half. In fact, the Titans wouldn’t gain back possession of the ball until nearly the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Because Rifle opted to defer the opening kick after winning the coin toss, they took possession to start the second half and marched downfield with a cascade of clock-eating short runs via senior Marantino and Fletchall. They’d help Rifle get to the red zone before facing a critical 4th down and 4 yards to go.

Junior starting quarterback Trey Caldwell would keep the ball and rush for 7 yards to get the first down. The next play, Fletchall bash it in for a short score.

But down 20-19, head coach Todd Casebier made the gutsy play to go for an extra two points. The move paid off as Caldwell connected with junior Gavin Peterson, putting the Bears up 21-20 at 2:44 in the third quarter.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, the very next play Casebier gave his special teams the nod to try an onside kick. With Rifle sophomore kicker Javier Diaz catching the Titans off guard, Rifle would recover it at midfield.

“First of all, you practice those situations and you sell your team on the fact that not only are we going to go, we’ve got to execute it,” Casebier said. “Remember, they’re just another call in the game but you practice the situation and explain the importance of it to your team and ultimately they’ve got to execute it. It’s something that I’ve always believed in and done, and our coaching staff was outstanding.”

Not squandering the opportunity, Marantino would eventually run to the ball to the Titans’ 27-yard line. This would later set up Fletchall for another touchdown run within the 10-yard line. After a good point-after kick, Rifle sat on top of the Titans 28-20 at 10:13 in the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t know they were going to be that explosive,” Casebier said of The Classical Academy’s offense. “Knowing we had the ball coming out, I told the kids at halftime the plan was to get a good, solid kick return, go down and score, go for two and take the lead and then onside kick and recover and go score again. That’s exactly what we talked about and darned if our kids did exactly that.”

Casebier said his team’s second-half efforts truly turned the game around.

“Our defense started playing better,” he said. “TC started to have to earn it. Coach (Tim) Place started making adjustments at halftime because you’re talking about an elite athlete, this (Cade) Palmer.”

But the Bears still had a long way to go. They had to somehow stop Titans running back Cade Palmer, who eventually amassed more than 300 yards in the game, and they still had to do something to stop all the other Titans’ offensive weapons.

The Titans took possession and marched all the way to Rifle’s 11-yard line. On 3rd and 3, junior Titans starting quarterback Sam Guilez would connect with sophomore receiver Jake Jennings at 8:28 left in regulation.

Down 28-26, the Titans would go for two extra points via hand-off to Palmer. The Division I college prospect, however, would be stopped short at the 1-yard line.

The next possession, the Bears would eventually face fourth down and 1 yard to go deep in their own zone. Marantino, however, would take a handoff and scamper 70 yards unscathed for the long touchdown run. With the good point after, the Bears would go up 35-26 at 6:15 in the fourth quarter.

But the Titans fought back. A few plays later on their possession, Palmer would blow past Rifle’s defense for a long, 46-yard touchdown run. This time, Titans head coach Justin Rich gave his offense to nod to go for 2 extra points. And this time, they’d connect on a heart-stopping flea-flicker. Yet Rifle remained on top with a very fragile 35-34 lead.

Then, on the very next possession, Rifle fumbled the ball over to The Classical Academy with less than 4 minutes to play. With victory quite literally less than a half a football field away, however, Bears junior outside linebacker Josh Avila would wrap up Palmer on a run, strip the ball away and recover the loose ball.

“I can’t really remember,” Avila joked of the play while on the bus ride home. “(Palmer) ran to my side and our whole team was on him and we made a big collision and I saw his arm was flying there and I did my best to strip it… But I couldn’t have done that without my teammates.”

Marantino had to hold back the emotion when he saw Avila make the biggest play of the game.

“When I saw that Josh stripped the ball, I could’ve fallen down and cried,” He said. “I was so close to doing that, I had to maintain myself from crying because that’s exactly what we needed. We all knew what we needed, but we didn’t say we needed to get the ball back, we needed to get the strip. We didn’t say any of that and Josh went out there and he stood up and he kicked butt. That’s exactly what we needed.”

The play would eventually solidify Rifle’s come-from-behind victory. Marantino would get one more first down on the next possession and Caldwell would kneel in victory formation.

It’s worth noting, Avila suffered an injury early in the season and was out until the second round of the playoffs — the win against Glenwood Springs.

“My struggles this year, at the beginning of the season I tore my hamstring and I let that get the best of me, so I would be a jerk in class, not respect the teacher… ya know, I wasn’t being a good athlete,” he said. “But, lately, since I’ve been healed I’ve been overcoming it and my coach talked to me about it and told me I need to stop doing that and be a good person because that’s what this sport’s about. It builds character.”

Casebier also acknowledged Avila’s play and what it took to get there.

“For Josh, that was a huge play,” Casebier said. “Him and I have had our frustrations this year and I was so happy for him to make a play when it mattered because Josh is a good player and we haven’t been able to utilize him just because there’s been some things that have come up that he hasn’t done his part, and today he did. He got the job done today in the biggest moment of the game. He caused the fumble and he recovered it.”

In the first half, of course, The Classical Academy came out and punched the Bears hard in the mouth.

Palmer would draw first blood, scoring on a 27-yard dash into the endzone. It was a 54-second scoring drive.

Rifle would try to answer back, putting forth a 10-play drive. But after making it to the Titans’ 48-yard line, the Bears were forced to punt. This set up a 75-yard scoring drive for the Titans, with sophomore running back Ethan Aragundi scoring at 6:02 in the first quarter.

The play meant the Titans amassed 161 yards on their first 9 plays on offense.

Down 14-0, however, Rifle began to chip away at the Titans’ defense. Casebier’s ground-and-pound offense slowly made their way downfield. Getting the ball to the Titans’ 36-yard line, junior quarterback Trey Caldwell would toss it to junior Gavin Peterson, who connected with sophomore receiver Kade Bishop for their first touchdown of the game.

“I think the way we run the ball, people have to load the box to stop our run game, and that’s what we needed to do,” Casebier said. “Gavin Peterson had a great throw to Kade Bishop for the first touchdown.”

With a good extra point after, Rifle trailed 14-7 at 10:51 in the second quarter.

On their next possession, The Classical Academy would drive downfield to their 41-yard line via a nice Palmer run. In the next play, Palmer blew past Rifle’s secondary for a 59-yard touchdown run. After a failed 2-point conversion, the Titans were up 20-7 at 9:07 in the second quarter.

Rifle, however, would answer right back. This time, after marching downfield with several successful runs made by Fletchall, Marantino would get in the scoring mix, bashing the ball past the plane for a 2-yard score.

Rifle would miss the extra point, but would now trail 20-13 at 3:05 left in the first half.

Arguably one of the biggest sequences of the game for Rifle came on the next Titans drive. The Classical Academy drove all the way to the Bears’ 36 yard-line. The Bears’ defense, however, would remain stout, stopping the Titans before they could score going into halftime.

Casebier praised his offense for also stepping up in lieu of Wolf’s absence.

“Our backs, Embrey Marantino, Toto Fletchall, Gavin Peterson, Trey Caldwell, everybody that carried the ball had to do the job because we lost one of our great players in Kaden Wolf,” he said. “And everybody had to pick up the slack, so Embrey was a warrior on both ends of the ball, but I thought Toto ran the ball extremely well.”

The win marks the fourth state title in Rifle’s history. The underdog Bears, ranked No. 4 at the start of the 3A playoffs, ended the season with a 7-2 overall record.

The odds stacked against them, the battle-tested Bears overcame two formidable opponents in order to hoist their hardware.

In the first round, the Bears hosted No. 5 The Academy and ended up nabbing a hard-fought 28-20 victory.

Then, taking a stab at redemption, Rifle scored in overtime to beat a No. 1-ranked, high-octane offense team in the Glenwood Springs Demons 20-17 at Stubler Field on May 8. The Demons, of course, previously upended the Bears 22-15 at home in the regular season on April 16.

The Bears’ solid start to the 2021 season was also thrown a curveball as Basalt handily bested them 38-7 on April 30.

Meanwhile, the once undefeated, No. 2-ranked Titans ended their season run with a 6-1 overall record — their only loss of the season courtesy of Rifle.

The Titans’ season has been nothing but dominant. Not only were they undefeated but their stout defense only gave up 19 points all regular season.

For Casebier, he’s just happy his kids got a chance to experience something so great.

“The first thing is, our kids got to play the great game of football all over this state and get back what we all took for granted with sports in general before COVID,” he said. “Our kids got to experience the great game of football together as a team and the highs and lows of that come from being able to play football, so I’m thankful we got the chance to do that.”

Asked how he’s going to celebrate and win, Avila kept it simple.

“Go home and go to sleep,” he said.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Demons trounce Nighthawks 56-13 to open 3A football playoffs

Glenwood Springs High School Demon Blake Nieslanik runs the ball down the field against Northfield Nighthawks on Saturday. The Demons won the 3A quarterfinal 56-13.
Peter Baumann/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs’ stingy defense and some big gains by the Demons running backs Saturday spelled big-time victory for the home team in the opening round of the 8-team 3A football playoffs Saturday.

No. 1 Glenwood defeated No. 8 Northfield 56-13 at Stubler Memorial Field to advance to the semifinals against a familiar opponent next week, Rifle. The Bears, seeded fourth, were 28-20 winners over No. 5 The Academy earlier in the day Saturday, setting up a rematch between the cross-county rivals.

Game time for Glenwood (7-0) vs. Rifle (5-2) is set for 12 noon Saturday, May 8 at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood Springs.

In the quarterfinal Saturday, the Demons and Nighthawks both opened strong on the defensive side of the ball. But once Glenwood got it rolling, it was all Demons.

A Northfield fumble on the snap forced a punt with inside six minutes to play in the first quarter, setting the Demons up at midfield. A pair of long runs by juniors Blake Nieslanik and Ray Rosenmerkel put the ball inside the 1 yard line, and senior Garrett Dollahan carried it in untouched for the first Glenwood touchdown.

On the next Demons possession, after freshman quarterback Joaquin Sandoval set things up with a pair of nice pass completions, it was Rosenmerkel who scrambled in from 10 yards out with 1:21 showing on the first-quarter clock to put Glenwood up 14-0 after the extra point.

The Demons were perfect on point-after attempts all afternoon.

Glenwood Springs High School senior Garrett Dollahan breaks through the Northfield Nighthawk's defense on Saturday. Glenwood won the 3A quarterfinal 56-13.
Peter Baumann/Post Independent

Following the Rosenmerkel score, Northfield got on the board on a long pass play to senior Jonathan Guillen, who reeled it in on the sideline and broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown run. The PAT made it 14-7.

But the Demons were quick to answer, when Nieslanik broke loose on the next series for a 66-yard touchdown run to open the second quarter and make it 21-7.

After backing the Nighthawks up against their end zone on the kickoff, junior Ian Cecil-Hoerl scooped up a fumbled snap and scored another touchdown for the Demons and made it a comfortable 28-7 lead. After another Dollahan touchdown on the ground, the Demons held a 35-7 halftime lead.

The Glenwood High School Demons football team defeated the Northfield Nighthawks 56-13 on Saturday. Glenwood will face off against Rifle High School next week.

“We responded well when that young man ran that ball down the sideline,” third-year Glenwood head coach Patrick Engle said. “There’s no one on our team who can catch him, but we’re pretty physical and got right back in it, and I liked the fact that we ran the ball as well as we did today.”

Rushing stats for the game were not immediately available.

Engle said it was the first time the Demons have won a home football playoff game since 2015.

“To win a playoff game is extremely difficult, so hats off to the coaches for the way they prepared, and hats off to the kids for the way that they prepared,” he said.

The Demons continued the rout in the second half. Senior Stephen Morris intercepted a Northfield pass with 4 minutes gone in the third quarter that set up another Nieslanik run to just short of the goal line, and another Dollahan touchdown.

Not even 3 minutes later, Rosenmerkel busted loose off a nice block from Nieslanik for a 75-yard touchdown scamper, putting Glenwood up 49-7 and starting the mercy clock for the remainder of the game.

Glenwood Springs High School junior Ray Rosenmerkel runs the ball down the field against Northfield Nighthawks on Saturday.

“We’ve been working so hard for this,” Rosenmerkel said after the game, noting the Demons entered the spring season ranked No. 6 and moved up to the No. 1 ranking to open the playoffs.

“We’ve been putting in the work to get here, so the hay’s in the barn, as we say; the work’s done. Now’s the time to close those final doors and finish the season.”

Glenwood’s final score came on a run by junior Evan Heyl, and Northfield’s second touchdown came on a 30-yard run from sophomore Amarion Richardson.

Engle said the Rifle rematch is as it should be. The Demons defeated the Bears 22-15 on April 16 to win the 3A West and earn the No. 1 ranking.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “I’ve been saying the state championship would either go through Basalt or the other place, and I guess it’s going through the other place.”

In the other area 3A game Saturday, No. 3 Basalt lost 27-22 to No. 6 Sand Creek in Basalt.

Glenwood High School Demon senior Garrett Dollahan runs the ball down the field against the Northfield Nighthawks on Saturday.

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

Soccer: Coal Ridge overwhelms GJ Central, 6-0, to stay unbeaten

Coal Ridge senior Jack Price (5) looks to advance the ball to junior teammate Anthony Ayala Gomez (9) in the Titans 6-0 win over Grand Junction Central on Saturday.
Photo courtesy Fil Meraz

The Coal Ridge boys soccer team kept its winning streak to open the spring season alive on Saturday with a 6-0 non-league win over visiting Grand Junction Central.

Titans goals came from sophomore Ezra Williams (2), and one each from senior Jack Price, junior Eddie Salazar, junior Anthony Ayala Gomez and senior Moises Contreras.

Coal Ridge improved to 5-0 on the season, and takes its 2-0 league mark to the home field on Tuesday versus Basalt. Game time is 4 p.m.

In other Saturday preps soccer action, it was Steamboat Springs 7-2 over Rifle (0-3); and Vail Mountain 2-1 over Roaring Fork (0-3, 0-2).


COVID-19 dial changes allow for unrestricted attendance at outdoor Re-2 athletic events

Following changes to Colorado’s COVID-19 dial, outdoor event attendance restrictions for Garfield Re-2 School District athletics have been removed, according to a district news release.

“This means that as long as Garfield County remains in the ’blue’ designation, all football and soccer games will not have restrictions on the number of people allowed at the event,” the release states.

Those who attend are still required to wear masks and are encouraged to maintain 6 feet of distance between non-household members, the release adds.

Garfield Re-2 grandmas happy to be back watching grandsons play football

Donna DuBois watches her grandson, Karsen DuBois, during Friday’s Coal Ridge football game. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Just after kickoff, Donna DuBois, grandmother to Titans senior starting quarterback Karsen DuBois was standing amid a sea of sitting bodies at the top of the home bleachers.

She just couldn’t sit still knowing her grandson, after nearly seven months of waiting, was back on the gridiron.

“He’s a senior and it’s, like, his life,” Donna said. “So yeah, we’re so very, very happy he’s back on the field.”

Donna, a Denver Broncos season ticket holder, said football holds a magical space in the hearts of the student athletes and their families.

“It’s just so important,” she said. “I like this football. It’s outside, it’s beautiful and it’s getting back to some normalcy.”

Wedged between students, parents and little tykes out at the stands and surrounding fences at a high school football game is a small contingent of spectators who arguably have more at stake than anyone else: The loyal grandmothers of western Garfield County.

Not only have they watched their children spend their formative years out on the playing fields, they get to get to watch a whole other generation of theirs grow.

But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted Garfield Re-2 School District to postpone much of the 2020 fall sports season until now, some dedicated grandmothers have been forced to remain patient.

Lucky for them, however, March 19 ushered in the start of high school football in Garfield County, with Rifle and Coal Ridge going head to head on Titans turf. Unlike the sometimes dreary, damp fall evenings typical of high school football, the day came with low winds, warming sunshine and bluebird skies.

Down at the visitors’ end, Lorrie Peterson, grandmother to junior Bears starting quarterback Gavin Peterson, walked close to the sidelines with her smartphone pointed in the direction of the field. She smiled as she took a picture.

Lorrie Peterson snaps a photo of her grandson, Bears starting quarterback Gavin Peterson, during a Friday football game between Rifle and Coal Ridge. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Lorrie said she’s been watching her star quarterback play sports “since he was knee high to a grasshopper.”

“There’s nothing better,” she said of watching her grandson suit up in football gear again. “He’s doing great. He’s got a touchdown, he’s killing it. I’m a happy grandma.”

So far, Colorado High School Activities Association, under the guidance of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has allowed Re-2 to host 250 fans in the home stands — including another 100 for the away team.

In addition to spectators, high school leathernecks are not required to take some of the precautions their basketball counters had to follow during Season B sports.

“I’m just glad they’re not making them wear masks to play,” Lorrie said. “It’s horrible.”

Parents also finally got to see their kids play, after waiting months for spring football — one of the most notable anomalies in Colorado high school sports history — to kickoff .

Minutes before her son, Rifle senior Josh Straw, tackled Karsen DuBois for a yard-losing quarterback sack, Stephanie Straw said she’s simply just thankful the student-athletes get to play again.

“I think that it’s great that we’re out here and the boys are super excited,” she said. They weren’t sure they were going to get a season. And now they’re out there, they’re pumped up. Us parents, we’re just glad we’re out there with ’em.”

Her son is also pumped to be working with a good football team — a program that eventually won Friday night’s battle 49-0.

“Rifle’s got a great team and a great new head coach,” she said. “He felt like they’re going to be successful. Rifle kicks butt every single year, every single game. It’s usually over by halftime every time they play.”

Stephanie also acknowledged the district’s decision to bring football back in spring.

“It was extremely important,” she said. “Who doesn’t love watching their boy play ball? We would’ve been disappointed, but we’re just very pumped for him in his senior year.”

With her smart phone in her hand, Lorrie Peterson echoed Stephanie’s sentiment toward her starting quarterback grandson.

“I don’t like missing anything he does,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”


Glenwood Springs’ Libby Claassen named top 3A diver in state

Glenwood Springs diver Libby Claassen competes at the 3A State Swimming and Diving Championships in Denver on March 15. Claassen was voted by coaches as the top 3A diver in the state this year
Photo by Brent Murphy/BrentMurphyPhoto.com

Glenwood Springs High School senior Libby Claassen, fresh off her third-place showing in the 1-meter diving competition at state earlier this month, has been named the state’s Class 3A diver of the year.

The honor is bestowed by a vote of 3A head coaches in the state and awarded by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

It’s extra special for Claassen, who has been coached for all four years of her high school diving career by her mother, Lara Claassen, a former competitive diver herself.

Daughter Libby said diving was definitely one of the highlights of her high school experience.

“It taught me so many things about pushing through fear of new dives, maintaining focus and how to keep composure during competition,” she said. “I was always curious about diving because it had been such a big part of my mom’s life growing up and through college, and now it was something that we could share together. I hope one day that I might have a daughter and can teach her to dive, too.”

Lara Claassen commended both Libby and fellow senior Abby Scruton on a successful season. The diving combo of Claassen and Scruton went undefeated during the conference season, before finishing 3-4 at state.

That helped the GSHS girls swim and dive team to a third-place overall team finish in the state competition.

“What made this more meaningful for me as a coach was the fact that when they were freshmen, neither one of them had any diving experience,” Claassen said. “When I was watching them at state and remembering where we started, I just couldn’t believe the growth they had in the sport over these four years.

“It was so rewarding for me as a coach to see these young women turn into such beautiful divers and such fierce competitors.”

Something in particular clicked for Libby this season that had proven to be difficult last season, and even took it to another level, the coach said.

“She made a huge leap forward with her diving in both degree of difficulty and her ability to maintain her focus in meets,” she said. “The girls really encouraged and supported each other throughout these last four years, which created such a positive and healthy environment for both of them to continue to learn and grow as athletes.”


Preps roundup: Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork volleyball score wins; Titans cheer team regional grand champions

In girls volleyball action to start the spring season Friday, Glenwood Springs battled visiting Coal Ridge in a five-game thriller before falling to the Titans, 3 games to 2.

The back-and-forth match saw the Lady Titans come out on top in the opener, 25-19, before the Demons scored a decisive 25-14 win in game two.

The teams traded wins again, with Coal Ridge taking game three, 25-22, and Glenwood scoring the 25-20 win in game four. The Titans won the tie-breaker, 15-10.

Senior outside hitter Brecken Guccini had 12 kills and 17 digs for the Titans, and senior middle hitter Taylor Wiescamp had 8 kills and 4 blocks on the night.

Senior Phoebe Young was good for 21 digs and 9 kills and senior Ari Cornejo had 24 digs, while sophomore Emma Morgan had 18 assists and 2 kills and senior Kallie Bumgardner recorded 14 assists and 6 digs.

“Both teams battled hard all evening,” Coal Ridge coach Aimee Gerber said in an emailed comment on the match. “Glenwood was extremely scrappy and tough on defense, but we kept battling and won on the offensive side of the night.”

Individual statistics for the Demons were not immediately reported to Maxpreps.com/Colorado. Glenwood (1-1) travels to play Montrose at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

Coal Ridge (1-1) plays at home at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Steamboat Springs.

Roaring Fork 3, Rifle 1

The Roaring Fork volleyball team, on the road at Rifle, defeated the Bears 3 games to 1. The Rams won the first game 25-12, but the host team battled tough to take the second game, 25-18.

The Rams then took control, winning the final two games by scores of 25-17 and 25-19 to score the match win.

Roaring Fork improves to 2-0 on the season heading into a match with rival Basalt at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Rifle (0-1) takes on Moffat County at home at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Roaring Fork senior Grace Jardine defends against a Rifle offensive threat Saturday. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Rifle’s Cora McMillen goes up for a spike against a Roaring Fork defender Saturday. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Rifle defenders, from left in background, Sage Allen and Mackenzie Elizardo try to thwart a Roaring Fork shot Saturday. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Olathe 3, Grand Valley 1

The Lady Cardinals, playing on the road at Olathe Saturday afternoon lost to the Pirate 3 games to 1.

Down 2-1 after Olathe won the first two games by identical scores of 25-20, Grand Valley returned the favor with a 25-20 win of its own in the third game. The Pirates regained control, taking the fourth and decisive game, 25-19.

The Cardinals (0-2) are to host Cedaredge at noon on March 27.

Coal Ridge wins regional cheer competition

The Coal Ridge High School coed cheer teams at Saturday’s regional competition.
Facebook page photo

The Coal Ridge High School cheer team, hosting the Regional Cheer Championships on Saturday, emerged as the grand champions despite some extra drama when the school had to be evacuated due to a possible carbon monoxide leak.

“To say that today was crazy would be an understatement, but they handled it well and came out on top,” coach Alyssa Thurmon wrote in a Facebook post. “What I’m most proud of is how they always support the other teams, are polite and have good manners. They truly are good people. They have worked their butts off this year and it hasn’t been easy.”

Coal Ridge will compete in the State Spirit Championships in Denver this Thursday through Saturday, along with teams from Glenwood Springs, Grand Valley and Rifle.

Glenwood Demons roll to 41-14 win over Aspen in football opener

The Glenwood Springs Demons and Aspen Skiers kicked off Colorado’s Season C spring football slate on Friday night at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood, and it was the Demons who rolled to an impressive 41-14 conference win.

With all six scheduled games for each team counting in the 3A West standings, Glenwood started its winning night by keeping the football on the ground, using the rushing legs of senior running back Garrett Dollahan and backfield mate junior Blake Nieslanik to grind up consistent yardage against the Aspen defensive front.

The only thing able to stop Glenwood early in the contest was untimely penalties that moved the Demons in the opposite way of the intended direction.

It was Dollahan who got the first score of the game for Glenwood on a 17-yard touchdown run with 4:58 remaining in the first quarter. The point-after attempt by senior Tyler Thomas was good, putting the Demons up 7-0.

With the Skiers going to the air often, but unable to mount a serious scoring threat against the Glenwood defense, the Demons jumped ahead 14-0 following a 10-yard touchdown burst by Nieslanik and the PAT by Thomas.

An Aspen fumble at the Glenwood 20-yard line near the end of the second quarter negated the only serious threat by the Skiers.

Several solid ground gains by Dollahan set the Demons up deep in Aspen territory and it was Nieslanik who finished off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run into the south end zone for a 21-0 Glenwood lead.

Running back Brody Porter bulled his way in for another rushing touchdown for Glenwood just before intermission to give the Demons a 27-0 lead.

Aspen’s defense finally got the visitors on the scoreboard early in the third quarter when Skier safety Nate Thomas picked off a deflected pass by Glenwood junior quarterback Evan Heyl and rambled untouched into the end zone. The Skier two-point attempt was stuffed by the Demons and the score stood at 27-6.

Heyl connected with senior receiver Wheatley Nieslanik for a short touchdown pass and the Demons were good on the two-point conversion for a large 35-6 lead.

Heyl added a second TD pass to his game resume, hitting junior tight end Sawyer McKenney for a score to give Glenwood a 41-6 margin.

Thomas, who provided the Skiers with the interception return, tossed a late touchdown pass for Aspen from the quarterback position for a consolation score that accounted for the game’s final tally on the night.

“Our kids have worked extremely hard the last 16 months, and what you saw tonight was the result of that effort,“ Demons head coach Pat Engle said. ”All the time and work together has bonded this group. I think the world of them and how they have prepared themselves for this season.”

In a solid opening night debut, Nieslanik and Dollahan both turned in 100-plus rushing yards for the potent Glenwood run game.

Glenwood and Aspen will both hit the road to continue play in the 3A WSL next Friday night with the Demons making the long trek to Cortez and the Skiers heading to Rifle to face the Bears, who were 49-0 winners over Coal Ridge Friday night.

Grand Valley wins opener

In the only other area home game Friday, the Grand Valley Cardinals shut out Ellicott in 2A West action, 48-0.

Junior running back Emilio Garcia rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns in the win, and sophomore Steven Hicks ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Hector Delacruz threw for another Cardinals touchdown.

On Saturday, the 2A Roaring Fork Rams opened their season with a 26-8 loss on the road facing the St. Mary’s Pirates. Games stats were not available.

Post Independent senior reporter John Stroud contributed to this report.

Area prep basketball teams land several players among WSL All-Conference selections

Glenwood Springs Demon Maddie Moser dribbles the ball around Coal Ridge Titan Jackie Camunez during action this season. Both players were named to their respective WSL All-Conference teams.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County high schools had several boys and girls players named among the just-released Western Slope League All-Conference and Honorable Mention basketball picks.

Class 4A boys All-Conference selections, as voted on by league coaches, included Glenwood Springs junior Reid Swanson and Rifle sophomore Kade Bishop.

Earning Honorable Mention were juniors Blake and Aiden Nieslanik for Glenwood, and junior Josh Avila for Rifle.

League champion Steamboat Springs swept the individual honors, with 6-foot-8 senior post Eric Pollert earning Player of the Year, and coach Michael Vandahl earning Coach of the Year.

Among the 4A girls, league champion Glenwood Springs saw seniors Maddie Moser and Graci Dietrich named to the All-Conference team, along with Rifle senior Mackenzie Elizardo and junior Jamie Caron.

Honorable Mention picks included, for Glenwood: juniors Kenzie Winder and Ella Johnson and sophomore Joslyn Spires; and for Rifle: sophomore Jasmine Quinones and junior Kimber Lang.

Player of the Year for the 4A girls was Battle Mountain’s Gabby Castillo, and Coach of the Year was Palisade’s DeAnne Larsen.

4A WSL All-League picks


All Conference (in order of pick): Eric Pollert, Steamboat Springs (Player of the year); Tyler Nakos, Summit; Donovan Maestas, Palisade; Jake Kreissig, Steamboat Springs; Cade Gedeon, Steamboat Springs; Cam Kalaf, Summit; Reid Swanson, Glenwood Springs; Tido Ruiz, Rifle; Donovan Kemp, Palisade; Kade Bishop, Rifle; Bryan Martinez, Eagle Valley; Hector Diaz, Summit.

Honorable Mention: Granger Rowan and Kellen Adams, Steamboat Springs; Andrew Duxbury, Summit; Caleb Hicks and Paul Steinke, Palisade; Josh Avila, Rifle; Blake Nieslanik and Aiden Nieslanik,Glenwood Springs; Nikko Von Stralendorff, Eagle Valley; Tanner Roberts, Battle Mountain


All Conference: Maddie Moser and Graci Dietrich, Glenwood Springs; Alexis Muruchak, Kendall McKaskill and Elizabeth Hawkins, Palisade; Jamie Caron and Mackenzie Elizardo, Rifle; Gabby Castillo (Player of the Year) and Alden Pennington; Battle Mountain; Autumn Rivera, Summit; Anna Gill, Eagle Valley; Samantha Campbell, Steamboat Springs

Honorable Mention: Kenzie Winder, Ella Johnson and Joselyn Spires, Glenwood Springs; Bella Gigoux, Palisade; Jasmine Quinones and Kimberly Lang, Rifle; Gianna Carroll, Battle Mountain; Emily Koetteritz and Karen Barrios, Summit; Sierra Rivera, Eagle Valley

Coal Ridge’s Eddie Salazar dribbles the ball past Glenwood’s Reid Swanson during action this season. Both players earned WSL All-Conference honors in their respective classifications.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

In the 3A league voting, the WSL champion Coal Ridge boys had four All-Conference picks: seniors Andrew Herrera, Hank DiMarco and Moises Contreras, and junior Eddie Salazar.

Roaring Fork High of Carbondale and Grand Valley of Parachute also had a few All-League picks in seniors Graham Pietsch and Alex Jaquez for the Rams, and junior Emilio Garcia for the Cardinals.

Honorable mentions went to Coal Ridge senior Karsen DuBois, Roaring Fork senior Julian Alcantara, and Grand Valley sophomore Steven Hicks.

Senior All-State nominees are Herrera, DiMarco, Contreras, Pietsch and Jaquez.

Player of the Year was Gunnison senior Braden Wood, and Coach of the Year was Aspen’s Alex Schrempf.

For the 3A girls, All-Conference selections included, for Coal Ridge: senior Taylor Wiescamp and sophomore Jackie Camunez; for Roaring Fork: senior Maya Lindgren; and for Grand Valley: sophomore Abbey Parker and freshman Jaycee Pittman.

Wiescamp and Lindgren are also the league’s senior All-State nominees.

Honorable mentions went to, for Coal Ridge: sophomore Mikayla Cheney and junior Peyton Garrison; for Roaring Fork: senior Lily Nieslanik and junior Genesis Quintero; and for Grand Valley: junior Bailey Radel.

League Player of the Year is Erika Kuta of Delta, and Coach of the Year is Moffat County’s Eric Hamilton.

3A WSL All-League picks


All-Conference: Braden Wood, Gunnison (Player of the Year); Andrew Herrera, Eddie Salazar, Hank DiMarco and Moises Contreras, Coal Ridge; Braden Korpela, Porter Lee and Shae Korpela, Aspen; Wish Moore and Marlon Nelson, Basalt; Aidan Hulbert, Gunnison; Graham Pietsch and Alex Jaquez, Roaring Fork; Colbi Braslin, Delta; Emilio Garcia, Grand Valley

Honorable Mention: Karsen DuBois, Coal Ridge, Ben Godomsky and Taylor Akin, Aspen; Theron Yoder and Skylor Wild, Gunnison; Julian Alcantara, Roaring Fork; Ryan Peck, Westley Counts and Chris Maneotis, Moffat County; Brendan Baier, Delta; Steven Hicks, Grand Valley; Alonso Silva and Alberto Alvarez, Basalt


All-Conference: Erika Kute (Player of the Year), Alexa Huff, Keely Porter, Marcy Schall and Jessica Dexter, Delta; Emily Papierski, Halle Hamilton and Cayden King, Moffat County; Taylor Wiescamp and Jackie Camunez, Coal Ridge; Gracie Reardon and Riley Dolan, Basalt; Abbey Parker and Jaycee Pittman, Grand Valley; Maya Linegren, Roaring Fork

Honorable Mention: Amber Salazar and Jacie Evenson, Moffat County; Mikayla Cheney and Peyton Garrison, Coal Ridge; Chandra Bohannan and Kaitlin Boothe, Basalt; Bailey Radel, Grand Valley; Lily Nieslanik and Genesis Quintero, Roaring Fork; Ashleigh Porter, Gunnison