Grand Valley ready to fight for playoff berth again |

Grand Valley ready to fight for playoff berth again

Jon Mitchell
Special to the Post-Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

PARACHUTE, Colorado – Grand Valley High School’s football team had a season in 2010 unlike typical Grand Valley football teams.

And they know it.

“Very disappointed,” said Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson, who enters his 12th season as the Cardinals’ coach. “There were a lot of off-field things that kept us from being the kind of team I thought we could be.

“But with this team,” Johnson continued, “even if we finished 0-10, this would still be a better team.”

No doubt, the suspensions of seven starters right before the start of 2A Western Slope League play took a toll on Grand Valley. The Cardinals, who had reached the Class 2A State Playoffs four consecutive years prior to this past season, finished 3-7 overall and won just one of their seven league games.

There’s a new resolve of sorts with this coming season’s Grand Valley squad, however. Fifteen players were regular attendees of the Cardinals voluntary spring drills following basketball season, and Johnson said the summer weight room attendance was more than encouraging.

That enthusiasm has persisted as the 2011 season approaches, and some of the players don’t even mind playing the role of underdog prior to the Cardinals’ Sept. 2 season opener at Rifle.

“I think no matter what, teams are probably going to overlook us,” senior co-captain and running back/linebacker David Witt said. “They’re going to schedule us for homecoming or something and figure we’re a team that will probably fall apart. That’s not going to happen this year.”

Grand Valley’s team chemistry is something that could make Witt’s statement a prophesy. That, along with extra size on the offensive and defensive lines, could make the Cardinals’ defense tough to run against and expand Grand Valley’s offense from its one-dimensional running game a season ago.

Most of the time the offense stalled, tallying seven or fewer points five times while tallying 1,484 rushing yards as a team. This year, Witt (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) and junior Tanner Zimmerman (5-6, 175) will carry the bulk of the rushing load behind an improved offensive line.

Garrett Smith (5-10, 250), a senior who shares team-captain duties with Witt, adds to an offensive and defensive line which includes Daniel Kamanawa (6-3, 300) and Jacob White (6-0, 230).

“This is one of the biggest lines I’ve seen here since my freshman year,” Smith said. “It’ll make a big difference. The extra time we spent in the weight room didn’t hurt at all.”

Ty Scott (6-4, 180), a sophomore, has been dubbed the Cardinals’ starting quarterback and will have senior wide receiver Trevor Smith and junior Trent Reidle to throw to. Johnson’s plan is to have a more wide-open game plan on offense, yet he’s confident that his defensive unit can relinquish less than the 21 points per game it averaged last season.

But unlike some, Johnson isn’t satisfied with the possibility of sneaking up on teams. He, like his players, are eager to return to the upper half of the league standings.

“We don’t want to sneak up on anyone,” the coach said. “We want to be the ones with the target on our backs. If things go the way we’ve planned, we hope to be fighting for a playoff berth again.”

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