Garfield County Football Preview
GLENWOOD SPRINGS The decibel levels in the Glenwood Springs High School weight room are through the roof.Its testing time for the Demon football team, a chance for the coaching staff to chart players performances in strength, speed and agility.Not a time or place youd normally have to worry about busting an eardrum, right?Think again.Players arent just giving their bodies a workout. Their vocal chords are getting plenty of repetitions, too.Raucous and rowdy, the Demons cheer each other on through this lifting exercise. Its a display worth noting, say players, who bandy about one word chemistry with glaring regularity.You can tell in the weight room when were all screaming and yelling at each other, said senior Dakota Stonehouse, the teams offensive ringleader at quarterback. Were all excited for the season to start.Jordan Ciani, another of the 17 seniors suiting up for the 2008 Demons, couldnt ask for better teammates.Our team chemistry is amazing, the senior contended. This is the best team chemistry weve ever had, because weve all been playing together since at least the seventh grade. Some earlier than that. Its just a lot of fun.And Glenwood is banking on that team chemistry to carry the program through whats become a quest for redemption in 2008.Glenwoods own Redeem TeamIn 2007, the Demons vaulted to the top of the Western Slopes football world. After years spent toiling well outside the spotlight, a school with a rich football past one that featured state titles in 1978 and 1980 saw its glory days restored after years of struggles.Glenwood ran the table on the regular season for the first time since 1979, winning 10 games against zero losses and entered the postseason with the states top ranking in Class 3A. The Demons held a second seed in just their second playoff appearance since 1991.Then came a first-round home playoff game against lesser-ranked Sterling.Glenwood coasted to a 20-6 halftime lead against the 15th-seeded Tigers. But Sterling crept back into the game.Capitalizing on crippling turnovers and stalled drives by Glenwood, the Tigers forced overtime.With fans roaring from both sides, the Demons took the ball first in the college-style extra frame, starting from their own 10-yard line. It took one play a rifled pass from Stonehouse to Kevin Screen for Glenwood to convert a score, which was followed by an extra point.Sterling, too, reached the end zone with one pass on its overtime turn.Its what happened next shocked a packed house at Stubler Memorial Field.After gauging their seniors wishes, the Tigers opted to attempt a two-point conversion and sneak away with a win.And, to the dismay of that energized home crowd, stocky running back Lee Meisner took the ball and pounded home the game winner, bringing the Demons season to an abrupt and devastating end.The final score: 28-27.Tears were shed en masse as a zombie-like home squad trudged off the field that November Saturday. They couldnt believe what had happened. It never should have happened.I dont know, said Stonehouse, searching for a way to sum up the events of Nov. 10. Being up 20-6 at halftime in the playoffs, we kind of took it easy a little bit. I think a little bit got to our heads, but not too much. This year, were not taking it easy on anyone, even if its 40-2 at halftime. That experience in the playoffs and them coming back to beat us really humbled us. Were going to make sure thats not going to happen again.On the same pageWhile the memory of last years sudden playoff exit lingers in the minds of this years Demon team, its something theyll use to their advantage. Its something that fortified team resolve and its something that brought them together.We broke it down and everything, said running back Michael Hudson, yet another of the teams 17 seniors. We learned our mistakes. It taught us some passion. It gave us the passion to go out there and do it.Chemistry is what will get the Demons past the first round of the playoffs. The program hasnt seen a senior contingent this large in sometime.Stonehouse is beginning his fourth season under center and much of that senior group has seen extensive playing time since their sophomore year.I remember playing with these kids since the second grade, Stonehouse said, smiling. We just grew up together, and not just on the football field. These are the kids I hang out with all the time. We hang out, go on the river. That really helps.And, on the football field, just as on the waters of the Colorado or Roaring Fork rivers, the Demons have each others back.You know when its a tight spot, you know you can trust the person beside you, and you believe in them, Stonehouse went on to say, that hes there for you and youre there for him. It really helps.Added Ciani: I just think were well-bonded and we all care about each other and respect each other. Its going to be a good year. Were trying to as much as a seniors as we can, like a senior trip. It makes our team chemistry stronger, so that when one of us needs a hand, were always there to lend it.The ultimate prizeIts no secret. Glenwood has the talent to be the last team standing in Class 3A. And, while theyre employing a quarter-by-quarter, game-by-game approach to the 2008 season, the Demons want another state championship trophy to display proudly.Rocky Whitworth, entering his fifth year as Glenwoods head coach and a winner of a state title as Roaring Forks frontman in 1977, keeps his Demons sights high.He asks us all where we are going this year, Hudson said. What are we going to do? We all kind of sit quiet for a second, thinking how far should we tell him we want to go? Then someone raises their hand and says it: Win state! Win state! Then he writes it on the board. Theres our goal.The intensity is there. The focus is there. All thats left is what plays out on the field.We have a bitter taste, senior Connor Riley proclaimed. Now we want to get some revenge, you know.Revenge, a good old chip on the shoulder, can be the best motivator of all.And maybe, just maybe, the 2008 Demons will go from cheering each other in the weight room to cheering each other on from the sidelines of a state title game.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS The pieces are in place.Their three-time all-world quarterback, Dakota Stonehouse, is entering his fourth year of taking varsity snaps. Stonehouse is one of nearly 20 seniors to grace an absolutely loaded roster, a list that includes some eight returning starters on offense and five on defense and one that took a minimal hit at the skill positions.Their head coach, Rocky Whitworth, is adept at turning programs around and has done just that since taking over the program in 2004. Could this be Glenwood Springs year?The last one wasnt all that bad, with the Demons rattling off a perfect 10 regular-season wins and taking the Class 3A Western Slope League title with relative ease.But a gaping void surfaced come playoff time when Sterling shockingly ousted those Demons in the first round of the state playoffs, leaving a massive chip on the shoulders of a program that enjoyed its best season since Jimmy Carter occupied the oval office.Its a group thats had success in our valley, Whitworth said, summing up his 2008 Demons. But their goals are to expand their success further, to not just be good here. We want to be good across the board.And its as clear as the waters at Hanging Lake how badly the program a program that went 39-111 and made the playoffs just once from 1991 to 2006 wants to win. Gone are cupcake preseason opponents. The Demons will play up a class at Montrose to kick off the season on Friday. Theyve also added a solid Conifer squad to the non-league slate.Our competition is stronger, for sure, Whitworth gauged. Montrose is probably going to be the champion of the 4A league. Theyre a physical, powerful team. We play them at their home field definitely a challenge. Conifer ranked strong in their league, too.Led by Stonehouse and his 2,341 passing yards, 666 rushing yards and 48 total touchdowns 31 in the air and 17 on the ground, the Demons put up astronomical numbers in 2007.They outscored opponents by an average of 39 to 14 and drew huge home crowds perhaps the largest since the programs glory days, the ones that produced state titles in 1978 and 1980.Stonehouse had plenty of partners in putting up those numbers. And most of them are returning in 2008 to replicate that devastating spread attack that destroyed opposing defenses last year.As far as the receiving corps is concerned, Connor Rileys 814 receiving yards and 41 receptions are back. So are Kevin Screens 423 yards, and Bennett Nicolas 290 yards.In the backfield, Michael Hudsons monster 2007 season one that saw him rack up 756 rushing yards and nine touchdowns has the Demons banking on something similar in 2008. When Hudson struggled with injuries late in the season, Jordan Ciani filled in capably.And Glenwoods offensive line, anchored by guys like Greg Orosz and Dru Avery, is mostly intact.I think our line will be just great, Stonehouse said with a smile.While the defense took a bigger graduation hit than the offense, Whitworth assured that the cupboards not bare on that side of the ball.[Linebackers] Keenan Hartert and Jordan Ciani have to step up and play strong, Whitworth. Id say our defense have to find themselves for sure, but theres some experience in each spot. Its not like its a clean slate. Theres always one or two [returning] starters at every spot.From a defense that surrendered just 14 points a game, thats a good thing.The pieces are in place for the 2008 Demons. Executing and delivering on their immense potential is all that remains.This is unproven ground, unproven territory, Whitworth proclaimed. Were the defending conference champions. Thats who we were last year. We have to find our own identity this year. Were the defending champions and we have to go out and prove it. Jeff Caspersen
CARBONDALE Losing last year didnt sit well with Roaring Forks football players. It still doesnt.At the Rams recent preseason camp, players all spouted a similar refrain: They want to erase 2007 a season in which the Carbondale school posted a 3-6 overall record from their memories and move forward.Its important to us, senior Nate Soucie said. This year, we want to come out really strong. We dont really like losing.Thats because, prior to last season, the Class 2A Rams really hadnt lost all that much. Postseason appearances in eight of the nine years serve as proof.New coach Greg Holley, who comes to Roaring Fork after a successful tenure at Woodland Park, hopes to make it nine playoff showings in 10 years.And his new players seem to want it even more.Were determined to bring back Roaring Forks winning tradition, senior Soren Phibbs emphasized, especially after last year.The Rams are entering the season with a sizable senior contingent and a hungry one at that.Taking the snaps for the Rams will be senior quarterback Ryan Weimer, whose 6-foot-3 frame and experience spelling now-graduated Jake Kinney last season have the coaching staff optimistic.Weimer is one of 12 seniors out for football, and Holley is putting a lot of stock in their abilities not only from a skill perspective but from a leadership perspective.Of course, weve got a lot of good, senior leaders, said the new coach, who is also settling into the schools athletic director role.His son, Dana Holley, is another one of those seniors. The wide receiver/linebacker likes what hes seen in the early going.Everyones looking good, the younger Holley said. Everyones trying hard to perfect everything. We have good chemistry. Everyones really friendly.Friendly, but determined to reverse recent history.I kind of like to leave that behind and look forward to brighter days, said senior Jack Stokan.Holley was able to turn Woodland Park around after landing there in 1994. He took a Panther team in the midst of a 3-56 streak to two league championships and a showing the state quarterfinals of the 1999 postseason.The Rams appear confident he can do something similar in Carbondale.You can definitely tell he knows what hes doing, senior Jon Araujo said. Hes been through this a few times.If we just play well, hit hard and come out to play on Friday nights if we do that, well go far. Jeff Caspersen
PEACH VALLEY When Coal Ridge High School opened its doors for the first time in the fall of 2005, former coach Jim Hoffman took a new football program made up mainly of freshmen and sophomores. He guided it through its infancy and the slow learning process that comes with youth and inexperienced. The Titans were forced to learn on the fly. Three seasons later, after the rigors of playing in a very tough Class 2A football league and taking the lumps that go along the way, Hoffman has left the Titan program on very solid ground.Enter new coach Scott Parker, who spent the last three years as the head baseball and boys basketball coach at Moffat County High School in Craig. Parker is no stranger to the football sidelines either, having spent time as an assistant coach at Fort Morgan High School and Hayden.Parker inherits a Coal Ridge squad that returns 10 starters on each side of the ball and an expectation that the team will make a move up in the league standings this year.I feel good about where this team is at right now, said Parker. We have a lot of kids returning with varsity experience.One of those returnees who will be counted on to carry a big load for the Titans is tailback Bradey Gasaway. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior will also line up on the defensive side of the ball as a linebacker and his coach says hes someone opponents will have to take notice of.Bradeys a hard runner and just a hard-nosed football player, said Parker. Hes the leader of the team.Coach Parker will also look for big contributions from seniors Josh Alsop, Kevin Laidlaw, Robby Raussin, Adam Miller and 6-foot-8 wide receiver Alex Klein.Parker, whose team opens the regular season on Aug. 29 at home against Hayden, knows there wont be many breathers or nights off once his team encounters the Western Slope League portion of the schedule.Its a tough league very good football programs in this league, said Parker, who looks to Olathe, Gunnison, Aspen and Grand Valley as the biggest roadblocks for his team on the league slate. We hope to compete well each week and be in the mix.One advantage Parker has going into the season is that he made the move from Craig in late spring and was able to hold a mid-June football camp at Coal Ridge so he could get to know and work with his new charges.I have a good idea of what Ive got and they know what I expect of them, said Parker, who will also teach special education at Coal Ridge. It was good to get to spend the summer with the kids. We had very good participation in the weight room.As is the case with all of the leagues coaches, Parker is hoping that come early November, his Titans are gearing up for a state playoff game. In the tightly packed WSL, that could be much easier said than done. By Mike Vidakovich
RIFLE Looking to blaze a deeper path in the 3A playoffs this year, the Rifle Bears football team plans to play as a team and not rely on one or two guys to carry the team.The ball is going to go to five, six, seven guys who are going to get a lot of touches, defensive assistant coach Anthony Alfini said. We dont have one or two guys who will get all the touches like last year. The load will be shouldered by more people. On the other side our defense will be playing with all 11 guys.First-year head coach Bill Kucera is currently battling a medical problem, forcing Alfini to handle take over as head coach during the summer practices. This year, Rifle wont have their go-to guy, quarterback/running back/linebacker Hazen Moss, Alfini said. Moss was the only player with more than 100 tackles last year and was named the top offensive back in the Western Slope League last year. Also, theyll be without center Justin Stone and Clayton Spillane and Tyler Chapman all two-year starters for the Bears.Alfini isnt worried though, he will have linebacker and fullback Dano Fugita, offensive guard and defensive tackle Tad Davis, and tight end and defensive end Brian Key, all seniors, who will have to step up this year. All three started every game last year.Theres a quarterback battle that has yet to be settled between senior Ryan Rebhan and junior Logan Powell. Powell throws a great deep ball and Rebhan provides a coaching presence on the field, Alfini said.Ryan knows his job and the jobs of the 10 other guys who are out there with him, he added. But theyre both competitors. Neither one wants to accept second place. They both have a fire under them and thats what we want.The Bears havent had the smoothest preseason with coaching changes and some issues with practices.Were finally getting the season going, Alfini said. There was some adversary in the preseason especially with us not having a head coach until June.Kucera replaced Damon Wells, who departed after several successful seasons with the Bear. Kucera is currently in the hospital with a ruptured disc in his neck and has some swelling around his spinal cord from demonstrating blocking on a one-man blocking sled, Athletic Director Mike Green said. From the doctors prognosis Green said Kucera is day-to-day with a re-evaluation in three to four weeks. If Kuceras condition worsens then surgery may be sooner.Alfini has taken over the head coaching position until Kucera returns; a spot hes glad to have, but it could have come under different circumstances.I think there are 1,000 better ways to start your coaching career, Alfini said.Hes taking over a team he played for during his high school days, which wasnt all that long ago since he graduated in 2003.I feel like Im pretty well prepared, he said. Even though I dont have 30 years of experience, Damon was a great coach to work under. He was very thorough and well prepared, and I got a huge dose of that.The Bears have also had to deal with the work being done at their various fields, moving to whatever was available to them.With all the work up at the high school, we havent been able to get in a lot of practice time up there. We dont want to be tearing up our game-day field, so weve been all over the place, Alfini said.The conference favorites look to be Glenwood Springs, Palisade, and Steamboat Springs, Alfini said.Those three teams are consistently good, Alfini said. If were able to get fourth place like we did two years ago when we won the state title then it will put us in the race. Yeah, first would be nice but as long as were near the top anything can happen. By Baron Zahuranec
PARACHUTE You cant blame veteran Grand Valley High School coach Mike Johnson for being more than a little excited about the start of the new football season.This group of kids could potentially be the best that Ive had here, said Johnson, who will be entering his ninth fall campaign at the Parachute school.Johnsons optimism stems from the fact that the Cardinals return seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters from a team that went 10-1 in 2007 and made it to the Class 1A state quarterfinals before losing a 20-19 heartbreaker to Wray. Four of the players that will be back Colton Cowan, Cole Kraft, William Waugh and Landon Paskett were named to various all-state teams at the conclusion of last season.Cowan, a versatile 6-foot-2 senior running back, led the state in rushing last season and will no doubt be one of the keys to the Cardinals offensive fortunes this season. Cowan, along with Waugh and Craft, will also help to anchor the Grand Valley defense at the linebacker position.Coach Johnson is counting on the leadership of his veterans to be a driving force in the upcoming season. He also cites the play of a varsity newcomer to the Cardinal starting lineup as being an important ingredient in how the team fares as they step up a classification this year into the 2A Western Slope League. That newcomer is junior Ryan Gallegos, who will take the reins as the Grand Valley quarterback this season. Though lacking experience, Johnson has total faith in his new signal caller.Hes very talented, said Johnson. Hell need to be a leader and run our offense. If he reaches his potential, we could be scary.Dont expect Gallegos to be intimidated by any charging linebackers or blitzing cornerbacks. Gallegos has been the state 1A runner-up in wrestling the past two years. Hes proven he can handle the big stage well.After a successful summer that saw his team win the 11-on-11 competition and place third in the 7-on-7 format at the University of Wyoming football camp, Johnson is looking forward to the jump up in classification to the 2A ranks.I think well be fine in the new league, said Johnson, who mentioned Olathe and Gunnison as his preseason league favorites. Were going to be challenged from week to week in this league (WSL), I think well be in the mix though.The Cardinals will make their 2A debut on Aug. 29 when they host the Thunderbolts from Denver Manual High School. It will be the first time in any sport that a Grand Valley team has competed against a school from the Denver Prep League. Still, Johnson isnt shying away from the challenge.We like our chances in that game if we come out and do what were supposed to, said Johnson.If any of the tried-and-true WSL teams are tempted to overlook the new kids on the block from Parachute, they may be in for a surprise and a big one at that.The kids are very excited about this season, said Johnson. I feel like this team will rise to the challenge. By Mike Vidakovich
ASPEN Everything fell into place for head coach Mike Sirko and his Aspen Skiers in 2007.The program made its first postseason appearance in 33 years, thanks to a 7-3 record, and won over a community thats sports focus is centered on skiing and snowboarding.It was great, Sirko said. We had great crowds for a small town. At times, it seemed like we had half the town there. Falls a good time of year. Skiings not around yet and we can get a little excited about football.Sustaining last seasons success is the next step Aspen hopes to take.It wont be easy. Gone are 12 seniors, four of them reigning all-2A Western Slope League first teamers.Among that cast is teams leading rusher in 2007, Tucker Eason. The workhorse back rushed for 1,699 yards and 20 touchdowns set the foundation for the Skiers success. Plenty of talent is returning, though. Senior Travis VanDomelen rushed for 325 yards and three scores behind Eason.Senior Beau Seguin, another running back, is returning, as is junior quarterback Anderson Cole.The weapons are present for another run but, as always, itll be tough going in a highly competitive 2A WSL that includes the likes of reigning champion Gunnison, Olathe and newcomer Grand Valley, which was a force in 1A last year.The hunger is definitely there.I think any time kids havent experienced something like [last year], it really shows, Sirko said. Everybody goes out and works hard, hoping to bring in a few victories. Our No. 1 goal is to be competitive.Large senior class has Longhorns hopefulBASALT Carl Frerichs is no stranger to Basalt football. Hes been an assistant coach for the Longhorns the last five years.So the first-year head coach knows what the team hes taking over is capable of, and he likes the squads potential even if Basalt went 2-7 in 2007.Were pleased, Frerichs said. Like with every year for our school injuries are huge, grades are huge. If those things can just come together. Last year, we lost two games by one point and another game by eight points, so we were 12 points away from a 5-4 season.Frerichs greatest source of hope is a large senior class of 16.Were just excited with a good senior class, the coach said. Theyre leading by example. Were very pleased with them.Leading that senior pack are Cody Kosinski, Seth Willits, Dalton Jacobson, Taylor Mills and Taylor Niko-Foreman. By Jeff Caspersen
Aspen SkiersDateOpponentTimeAug. 30At Lake County1 p.m.Sept. 5Rangely7 p.m.Sept. 12Hotchkiss7 p.m.Sept. 19At Basalt7 p.m.Sept. 26Cedaredge7 p.m.Oct. 3At Grand Valley7 p.m.Oct. 10At Olathe7 p.m.Oct. 17Roaring Fork7 p.m.Oct. 24Gunnison7 p.m.Oct. 31At Coal Ridge7 p.m.Basalt LonghornsDateOpponentTimeAug. 29Meeker7 p.m.Sept. 5At Vista Ridge7 p.m.Sept. 12At Paonia7 p.m.Sept. 19Aspen7 p.m.Sept. 26Grand Valley7 p.m.Oct. 3At Roaring Fork7 p.m.Oct. 10Coal Ridge7 p.m.Oct. 17At Cedaredge7 p.m.Oct. 24Olathe7 p.m.Oct. 31At Gunnison3:30 p.m.Coal Ridge TitansDateOpponentTimeAug. 29Hayden7 p.m.Sept. 6At Peyton1 p.m.Sept. 12At Rangely7 p.m.Sept. 19Cedaredge7 p.m.Sept. 26Olathe7 p.m.Oct. 3At Gunnison3:30 p.m.Oct. 10At Basalt7 p.m.Oct. 17At Grand Valley7 p.m.Oct. 24Roaring Fork7 p.m.Oct. 31Aspen7 p.m.Glenwood Springs DemonsDateOpponentTimeAug. 22At Montrose7 p.m.Aug. 29Conifer7 p.m.Sept. 5Eagle Valley7 p.m.Sept. 12At Delta7 p.m.Sept. 19Cortez7 p.m.Sept. 26At Battle Mountain7 p.m.Oct. 3ByeOct. 10Rifle7 p.m.Oct. 18At PalisadeNoonOct. 24Moffat County7 p.m.Oct. 31At Steamboat Springs7 p.m.Grand Valley CardinalsDateOpponentTimeAug. 29Manual7 p.m.Sept. 5Paonia7 p.m.Sept. 12At Hayden7:30 p.m.Sept. 19Gunnison7 p.m.Sept. 26At Basalt7 p.m.Oct. 3Aspen7 p.m.Oct. 10At Roaring Fork7 p.m.Oct. 17Coal Ridge7 p.m.Oct. 24At Cedaredge7 p.m.Oct. 31Olathe7 p.m.Rifle BearsDateOpponentTimeAug. 29At Silver Creek7 p.m.Sept. 5At Moffat County7 p.m.Sept. 12Brush7 p.m.Sept. 19Delta7 p.m.Sept. 26At Cortez7 p.m.Oct. 3Steamboat Springs7 p.m.Oct. 10At Glenwood Springs7 p.m.Oct. 17Battle Mountain7 p.m.Oct. 24Palisade7 p.m.Oct. 31At Eagle Valley7 p.m.Roaring Fork RamsDateOpponentTimeAug. 29Hotchkiss7 p.m.Sept. 5At Hayden7:30 p.m.Sept. 12At Meeker7 p.m.Sept. 19At Olathe7 p.m.Sept. 26Gunnison7 p.m.Oct. 3Basalt7 p.m.Oct. 10Grand Valley7 p.m.Oct. 17At Aspen7 p.m.Oct. 24At Coal Ridge7 p.m.Oct. 31At Cedaredge7 p.m.
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