Grand Valley High School football team eyes return to playoffs |

Grand Valley High School football team eyes return to playoffs

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Sami Jo Krieg Special to the Post Independent

In recent seasons, the word rebuild has yet to worm its way into Grand Valley High School’s football vocabulary. The program’s talent cabinet always seems to be stocked sufficiently to cope with key losses.

Take, for instance, the 2009 season. Despite losing a big chunk of their offense in backfield stalwarts Colton Cowan and William Waugh, the Cardinals still managed to craft a 7-3 effort. Though they missed out on the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, they were in it to the end.

In 2010, Grand Valley will again have holes to fill. Starting quarterback Ryan Gallegos graduated, as did a handful of other big-name seniors. Among them: Eric Glaze, Tyler Miles and Jared Tonder.

But the Cardinals have experience on the offensive and defensive lines, where junior Daniel Kamanawa (6-foot-2, 270 pounds), senior Jason Hart (6-2, 215) and junior Garrett Smith (5-10, 230) return to provide stability.

“Up front will be a strength of ours,” 11th-year Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson said. “Last year, we had five brand-new offensive linemen. This year, we have three returning.”

Working behind that stout front will be the Cardinals’ new starting quarterback – senior Jerrod Busch. Busch, who possesses junior varsity experience at the position, is shifting over from wideout to run the offense.

“He’s different from Gallegos, from both the Gallegos brothers,” said Johnson, referring to Ryan and Ryan’s older brother, Richard, who also quarterbacked for the Cards. “Jerrod’s a really good passer, but he’s a little bit of a run/pass option guy. He’s got great arm strength, but doesn’t quite have the touch that Ryan did. But he’s very fast.”

Another burner is Omar Melendrez, who will line up at wideout and serve as one of Busch’s primary receiving targets.

Joining Busch in the backfield will be returning running back Anthony Rhoads, a senior. Rifle transfer Caleb Lenard, also a senior, will handle the fullback duties.

Most of those players will also be contributors on defense. On that side of the ball, they’ll link up with last fall’s team sack leader, junior linebacker David Witt, in attempting to keep opposing offenses in check.

With their blend of returning and incoming talent, Johnson and company predict they’ll be in the mix for one of Class 2A’s 16 playoff spots.

Prior to missing the postseason in 2009, the Cardinals had made the playoffs in three straight seasons. To return, Grand Valley will have to either finish in the top two of the 2A Western Slope League or land one of the state’s four wild-card berths.

Back-to-back league champion Olathe and a loaded Aspen squad enter 2010 as favorites to win the 2A WSL.

“Until someone takes those two down, I’d certainly call them the favorites,” Johnson said.

As far as the postseason hunt is concerned, the longtime Grand Valley coach expects his Cardinals to be in the thick of it.

“We feel like we’re in the mix,” Johnson forecasted. “I feel like we have a good chance. We have a good group of kids coming back and certainly some experience up front. I fee like we’re going to be in the mix.”

Grand Valley opens 2010 with a trip to Rifle on Friday. It’ll be a surreal experience for Johnson, a 1992 Rifle graduate who not only played for the Bears but served as an assistant there from 1996 to 1999. Friday will mark the first time his Cardinals have played the Bears in a regular-season contest.

“It’ll be an odd experience, but I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and family that way. I still consider myself a big Rifle fan. It’s going to be a fun experience and it’ll be a different experience coaching from that sideline.”

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 3 at Rifle 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 vs. Paonia 7 p.m.

Sept. 17 at Hayden 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 at Cedaredge* 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 vs. Aspen* 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 vs. Gunnison* 7 p.m.

Oct. 15 at Basalt* 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 vs. Olathe* 7 p.m.

Oct. 29 at Roaring Fork* 7 p.m.

Nov. 5 vs. Coal Ridge* 7 p.m.

* – 2A Western Slope League game

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