Glenwood, Rifle gridders earn All-3A WSL honors

Jeff Caspersen
Post independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent file

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – For Glenwood Springs’ football program, the 2009 season was all about exceeding expectations.

Losing some 20 players from a 2008 team that won a Class 3A state title, few expected the type of campaign the 2009 Demons pieced together.

Glenwood went 7-5, returning to the postseason for a third straight year and even picking up a playoff victory. The Demons’ season came to an end with a state quarterfinal loss at Valor Christian, which went on to win a state championship.

“It’s not just a pride thing. I’m just happy that they were able to stand on their own,” Demons head coach Rocky Whitworth said. “They can get together, as a group of seniors, and be proud of being part of a state championship team [in 2008]. More than that, they can be proud of the fact they accomplished something people did not expect.”

In defying expectations, Glenwood were rewarded with 10 All-3A Western Slope League selections.

Running back/linebacker Tyler Thulson, defensive back Taylor Parsons, linebacker Nick Ciani, lineman Chad Montover and quarterback Luke Jacob were all named to the first team.

Lineman Conner Pawlak, placekicker Clay Hawkins, lineman Josh Bower, receiver/defensive back Trey Fox and receiver/defensive back Josh Galvan were all honorable mentions.

All but Ciani, Montover and Jacob are seniors.

Thulson, whose nose for the ball had him contributing in a big way on offense, defense and special teams, was named the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

“It was a special award for him,” Whitworth said of the senior captain. “The thing that impressed other coaches about Tyler was that it didn’t matter what team was on the field, he was always on the field. He was just a real spark plug. He never got tired. He was always competitive, hustling, making things happen.”

Whitworth had kind words for each of his all-league players.

“All three of our captains, Thulson, Parsons and Josh Galvan, got recognized,” he said. “Our kicker, Clay Hawkins, had an outstanding year. Our big linemen, Conner Pawlak and Josh Bower, too. Trey Fox went both ways for us. The other wonderful thing is we had three juniors make all-conference – Ciani, Montover and Luke Jacob, our quarterback.”

Jacob stepped into the shoes of former 3A Player of the Year Dakota Stonehouse, now playing at Carroll College in Montana, and had a breakout season. The junior surpassed 1,000 in both passing and rushing yardage.

Whitworth dubbed 2009 one of his more gratifying seasons as a coach. And, he said, the postseason award haul was well deserved.

“It was just really well deserving,” the veteran coach said. “Not necessarily in terms of talent, but in terms of their hard work, their feistiness as a group, their competitiveness, their ability to compete week in and week out and get in the state playoffs. And then to do well in the playoffs, too.”

RIFLE, Colorado – When analyzing all-league teams, Rifle head football coach Ryan Sulkowski believes it’s always important to look beyond the individuals listed.

“The most important thing to look at when all-league teams are voted on is that individual effort can only get kids so far,” he explained.

And his Bears are a perfect example.

The individual success of Rifle’s All-3A WSL selections – Tyrel Lenard and Jacob Massey made the first team; James Martinez and Joe Burgess were honorable mentions – all came with the aid of their teammates.

“It’s a complete team effort and although everyone cannot receive honors, it’s important to understand that, without the offensive line, James, Ty and Joe could not have rushed for so many yards,” Sulkowski said. “Without the defensive line, those guys would not have lanes to run through for the many tackles they accumulated. Without proper game planning, those guys may not be in the right position to make the plays they did. It’s a total team effort.”

The team effort certainly showed in the individual statistics.

Lenard finished with nearly 2,200 all-purpose yards.

“He did a fantastic job running the ball for us and went over 1,000 yards for the season on the ground, most coming after first contact, and was more important to us in the special-teams aspect of the game,” Sulkowski said. “In addition to his 1,200-plus yards rushing, he finished the season with nearly 2,200 all-purpose yards. He’s a big back who will excel at the next level.”

Massey, a lineman, is a big reason why Lenard had so many yards. Massey finished a close second in voting for the league’s Lineman of the Year award.

“Nearly every coach in the league agreed that Jake was one of the best linemen they saw this season and was invaluable to our offensive efforts, producing two 1,000-yard rushers on the season,” Sulkowski said. “Defensively, Jake single-handedly kept us in games and made it tough for opponents to run the ball inside, primarily facing double-teams in each game we played. His best football is ahead of him, playing on Saturday afternoons.”

The scrappy Martinez was Rifle’s other 1,000-yard rusher. He was also a game-changer at linebacker.

“James is just a ball hawk,” Sulkowski said. “He’s one of those guys that you always see around the pile when you watch film on Saturdays. Coach [Damon] Wells formulated the defensive game plan around James and he never disappointed. Offensively, he went over 1,000 yards rushing and the last four games he stepped in at quarterback and made some big plays. He’s just a great athlete who leads by example on the field.”

As for Burgess, he was “one of the most unselfish players on the team,” Sulkowski said.

“He played all over the field offensively and was stellar in the defensive secondary. Coach [Anthony] Alfini did a great job getting him prepared each week to lead the defense,” the coach added. “The hidden aspect of Joe’s ability, and probably the key reason he made the all-league team, is his punting ability. He averaged over 40 yards per punt on the season and consistently won the field-position battle for us. His potential and leadership ability will make him a special college football player.”

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