‘Golden class’ enjoys its legacy
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Collectively, they were known as the golden class, a perfect storm of talent that brought Glenwood Springs High School its first football state title in 28 years.
The storm that shaped a perfect 2008 season is something the Western Colorado mountain town may never see again.
From quarterback Dakota Stonehouse and his stable of reliable and sure-handed receivers – Connor Riley, Kevin Screen, Bennett Nicola and Josh Galvan among them – to an explosive running back in Michael Hudson, the offense was unstoppable. Its 42.2 points-per-game average buried all comers.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to suggest Stonehouse is the best quarterback Glenwood’s ever seen.
And then there was the defense.
Anchored by Aaron Zancanella on the defensive line and Keenan Hartert and Jordan Ciani in the linebacking corps, Glenwood yielded just 14.4 points a game.
The 2008 Demons were crazed in their pursuit of perfection, an obsession that yielded the ultimate prize – a golden ball trophy.
They could well have won it all in 2007, too. But a 28-27 overtime loss to Sterling in the first round – a crusher that came on a two-point conversion in overtime – delayed their celebration a year and, ultimately, was responsible for the unwavering focus they employed during their title chase.
In the end, the 2008 Demons got everything they wanted: a 14-0 record, a 23-14 win over Fort Morgan in the title game and that elusive state championship.
“One of my favorite experiences was just hugging my dad after the game and when Dakota ran in the touchdown to solidify our victory,” Ciani, now a student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, recalled. “We charged the field and I remember looking into the stands, seeing our fans coming out onto the field. It was a great feeling of relief. We worked so hard, dating back to our middle school years.”
Burdened by immense expectations, the Demons delivered.
As difficult to come by as that one title proved to be, few imagined the 2008 Demons and the squad’s 20 seniors – the golden class – would have company on the state title stage anytime soon.
Enter the 2010 Demons, who will get their crack at glory in Saturday’s 3A title game. They’ll have to beat 13-0 Elizabeth to take home a golden ball of their own.
The 2010 Demons aren’t operating with the same volume of talent that blessed that 2008 team, but they learned from the best. Their 12-1 record and methodical march through the playoffs suggest they were taking notes.
At least one of those seniors from the 2008 team could see this coming.
“I kind of did,” said Stonehouse, who’s now playing football at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. “I knew these guys were really athletic. They know how to win. I know their attitude. They don’t like to lose.”
Hartert, who’s playing football at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., noticed something special, too.
Players like fellow linebacker Nick Ciani, who logged a ton of playing time as a sophomore for the 2008 team, and current quarterback Luke Jacob, who’s performed admirably in Stonehouse’s shadow, left quite the impression.
“I definitely saw a lot in that sophomore class when we were seniors,” Hartert said. “It was tough for the guys below us because, I don’t want to say we had an incredible senior class, but we had a lot of numbers. They’ve done something we didn’t. They’ve established Glenwood as a perennial football 3A power.”
Hartert, back in Colorado while between trimesters at Carleton, will likely be at Legacy Stadium in Aurora on Saturday to watch his alma mater battle for a state title.
“I’m excited to see what will happen next,” Hartert said. “Nonetheless, I’m proud of what they’ve done, what the team’s done.”
School pride is stirring in a big way for the 2008 Demons as they take all this in from an unfamiliar perspective. They’re spectators for this one.
It hit Riley, now a receiver at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, as he took in last weekend’s semifinal game against Canon City.
“When I went to that game, it brought back a lot of old memories,” he shared. “I wished I could throw on the pads and get out there with them. It was really neat. It seems like we’ve started a dynasty, almost, when we won that state championship. I’m glad the success has continued.”
Like Hartert, Riley will probably be at Legacy Stadium on Saturday. So will Jordan Ciani. The 2010 Demons are bringing together not only a community of fervent Glenwood supporters, but it’s bringing together the 2008 team that started this “dynasty.”
“I’ve already been talking about it with Connor Riley and all of them,” relayed Ciani, whose younger brother is the aforementioned Nick Ciani. “It’s having that same affect when we were there. We brought the community together. As of now, I’ve talked to a bunch of the players I played with. We’re all talking about going to the game. The success of Glenwood, it’s basically bringing us together.”
Ciani, Riley and company hope it’s a happy reunion.
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