I’ll take you back for just a bit to an early spring Friday evening in 1988. The Glenwood Demons were facing off with Alamosa in a state 3A semifinal contest at the Denver Coliseum. The winner would advance to a Saturday state championship date at the old McNichol’s Sports Arena against Weld Central. The losers would pack their bags for home.
I was the assistant coach to Bob Chavez at the time, and this ’88 Demon group was as talented and deep as any I had ever witnessed at Glenwood High. We had solid big guys, and we had speed, quickness and good shooters. All the ingredients were in the basketball recipe to cook up a fourth state title for Coach Chavez.
To save words and space, I’ll condense this game into the final two, fateful minutes. The game was as tight as a perfectly woven Boy Scout knot as time wound down and neither team would give an inch. It had been an epic battle of two very good schoolboy squads, and it was a shame that one would have to lose.
Unfortunately, it was us who came up on the downside of the scoreboard.
Our big man, and arguably one of the best basketball players ever at Glenwood High School, Fred Heisel, had just been whistled with the fifth and final foul of his career. As Big Fred walked slowly off the court and away from a stellar and decorated four-year varsity stint for the Demons, his shoulders were slumped and his face was ashen. Even though we still had several talented boys on the front line in Rodney Sorensen, Donny Vandevander and Brent Donovan, we all knew that without Heisel to patrol the painted area, our hopes had taken a severe hit.
Alamosa would win that night, but go on to lose to Weld Central in a low-scoring affair the next night. The worst part of it, though, was saying goodbye to a senior class that had been a pleasure to be around and to coach throughout their high school years.
Heisel would go on to play at the next level for Mesa College and Regis College. Coach Chavez would retire the next year following the 1989 season.
The Demons were lucky to have Heisel back in the late 1980s, and they are lucky now to have him as coach. I have been fortunate to be associated with him since he was a boy at Glenwood Elementary.
In his two-year stint as Demon coach, Heisel has instilled a confidence in his team that is a pleasure to watch. That is something that cannot be coached, but it can be nurtured. Heisel has done that.
The Demons follow the old school principles of playing hard, playing smart and playing together. Heisel has the kids operating at both a high skill and high intensity level that leads to success on and off the court. These Demons could make some noise not just in the Western Slope League but at the state level. Only time will tell.
They certainly have the right man to guide them, no matter what happens in the win and loss column.
I may be partial to Heisel since he has been my buddy for many years, but there is another coach who is patrolling the sideline for Glenwood in the game just prior to the boys taking the court who is doing a nice job, as well.
Rhonda Moser has her girls team at the top of the Western Slope League right now, and the Lady Demons show no signs of letting up as tournament time in late February draws near.
The former Basalt Longhorn, Rhonda Crowley (Moser) spent several years as a Demon assistant under the successful teams of then head coach Jackie Gaddis. This is Moser’s fifth year in charge of the program, and she has the Demons once again at the top of the league. After some early growing pains, Glenwood has occupied the league penthouse under Moser for quite some time.
Rhonda knows the game, and she loves her players. That is evident in how she coaches and how she interacts with them. You won’t find a harder worker than Moser, and her complete dedication to the Demon program and her players is impressive. She once told me that her main focus is to make sure her players go on in life to be successful young women. With Moser showing the way, the Demons girls can hardly go wrong.
Kudos to Caro
There is a young man in Rifle who I would also like to mention. His name is Eric Caro, and he is in his second season guiding the Rifle Lady Bears basketball team. Though the record doesn’t quite indicate it right now, Caro will get things turned around much sooner than later.
I got to know Eric when he worked at the Glenwood Middle School as a teacher and coach. He coached almost all of the boys and girls that you now see being so successful for the high school Demons. Caro has an enthusiasm for life and a natural charisma that draws young people to him. I always root for his team and try to follow the Rifle scores whenever I can. Caro will keep working hard at Rifle, and it will all play out in the end for his Bears.
There are so many good coaches in this area that I could take up an entire newspaper with stories about them. For instance, I know Tony Gross up there in Carbondale will get the Rams going in short order. You can’t find better people than Gross and his predecessor Larry Williams.
There must be something wrong with me these days, though, because I find myself rooting for Rams and Bears on most occasions because of the great kids and the people who guide them.
Demons aren’t supposed to do that. Are they?
Mike Vidakovich is a Glenwood Springs native, coach and regular Post Independent sports contributor.