Snowstorm game still stings Cards
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The memories of a frustrating 24-3 loss in a Glenwood Springs snowstorm have not completely melted for Elizabeth High School.
The 2009 first-round playoff loss to Glenwood Springs High School was disappointing, but Elizabeth coach Chris Cline says it was just another lesson in their quest to win a Class 3A state title.
“I think it made this team more hungry,” he says about that loss. His 13-0 team will play 12-1 Glenwood on Saturday in Aurora’s Legacy Stadium.
Cline, a 1982 Rifle High School graduate, took over the Elizabeth football program in 2000 and has led them to the playoffs every year since. But until this season, the Cardinals never made it past the quarterfinals.
Cline knew that this year’s team had a chance to be great. After losing just one starter from 2009, the Cardinals are now an experienced team that starts 12 seniors and several juniors who played as sophomores.
“This team didn’t just happen,” Cline said. “We saw them coming up way back when they were fifth- and sixth-graders.”
Cline, 46, changed the offensive scheme this season. After having a pretty good passing game and running the I-formation in 2009, Cline’s team is now a power football team that will run, run and run.
Elizabeth runs a variation of the double wing with three talented senior running backs sharing the workload.
At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Matt Biery is the workhorse with more than 1,400 yards on the season. Brad Goldsberry rushed for nearly 900 yards and averaged just under nine yards a carry. Zach Butler chipped in with close to 500 yards on the season.
Elizabeth quarterback Dalton Taylor threw for a little more than 700 yards on the season.
As powerful as the Elizabeth running game has been, Cline says it’s the Cardinals’ defense that has been the key to their success.
“Our defense actually carries us and we feed off of them. We have a very physical defense and our linebackers are very fast,” Cline said.
He says junior Eli McKinney (6-3, 216 pounds) and senior Sean Dorrance (6-2, 189) are the linebacker playmakers for the team. Dorrance is also one of the team’s leading receivers from his tight end position.
Cline also says the team’s biggest player, senior Chase Cline a 270-pound nose guard, is the run stuffer at the line of scrimmage. He’s also the coach’s son.
Cline is very familiar with Glenwood and has tremendous respect for coach Rocky Whitworth’s program.
Singling out quarterback Luke Jacob as Glenwood’s main offensive “cog,” and a very good linebacker group, Cline says Saturday will be a huge challenge for his undefeated squad.
“When we have the ball we have to find away to block their linebackers and maintain our blocks. Glenwood will be a huge challenge for us to run against. We have to hold the ball and grind it out,” he said. “We don’t want to get into a scoring battle with Glenwood.”
As for Glenwood, he’s expecting the same type of game plan. Like his team, Cline sees the Glenwood defense as the key to their success.
“They play great defense, they shut people down, and their offense does what it needs to do. Rocky [Whitworth] does such a great job with those kids and has for so many years,” Cline said. “We’re a pretty darn good defensive team but Glenwood finds a way to move the ball. Rocky finds mismatches and he does that so well.”
Offensively, Cline says Glenwood will be difficult to stop.
“We’re expecting them to run the ball downhill at us. They spread the field and take advantage of getting their athletes in space,” he said.
After 11 straight years of making the playoffs but getting knocked out early, Cline says the school is thrilled to finally be in the championship game. Besides two gymnastics team state titles, no Elizabeth sports team has ever won a state title.
“It’s been a great season for us, to go undefeated and have the chance to go somewhere that no other Elizabeth team has gone before is really exciting,” he said.
This will be Cline’s first state championship football game, while Whitworth is going for his third state title as a coach.
Glenwood will also be going for its fourth football state title after winning it all in 1978, ’80 and 2008.
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