Stonehouse is a quarterback who has always dreamed big |

Stonehouse is a quarterback who has always dreamed big

Dale Shrull
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent
Chad Spangler |

A youngster politely holds out a football and asks, “Will you sign my ball?”

Number 14 smiles and obliges.

It’s a joyous scene at Stubler Memorial Field. The 47-14 victory has thrust Glenwood Springs into the Class 3A state title game.

You can see the big dreams in the youngster’s vivid eyes as he looks up at the Glenwood Springs quarterback. The little football player wears a jersey from his youth team. He hopes to someday play high school football. Today he dreams.

Dreams of following in the footsteps of these Demons.

Six years ago, there was a youngster who dreamed. A quarterback who led his team to the Three Rivers Youth Football Super Bowl title. Then he dreamed of playing high school football and maybe, just maybe, someday winning a state championship.

Dreams are big in the eyes and hearts of youngsters. Dreams do come true. Next Saturday, Dakota Stonehouse and the rest of the Demons will live out the ultimate dream of a high school athlete. Playing for a state championship.

“It’s cool to see those players looking up to us,” Stonehouse says. His humbleness bubbles out without effort. “It’s the greatest feeling ever, to live up to your dreams.”

He carries himself with poise and respect. He respects himself, his teammates, his opponents and everyone.

“Yes, sir,” he says, answering a question. Then he thanks an opponent as they say “nice game.”

Dakota Stonehouse carries himself like a football player. A quarterback.

On the Demons’ opening drive, Stonehouse led by example. It’s what he does.

Running the ball three straight times, the third time dodging the blitz and scrambling for a first down. Then he took off around the right side, darting past a defender at the 6, stiff-arming another at the 4 and powering into the endzone.

He smiles when he thinks about plays like that. His love of the game can be seen in his intensity and competitive fire on the field.

But he’s a quiet leader.

“I’m not a talker, I lead by example. We have players on our team who are the talkers and they lead that way, but I’m not that way,” he says.

But there’s no doubt that he’s the leader. Running the spread offense, the team doesn’t huddle, the plays are called at the line of scrimmage.

Whether he’s running or passing, Stonehouse is a field general.

He’s in complete control when the offense is on the field. He enjoys being the quarterback. He knows it’s his job to lead.

“He’s such a great leader and he leads by example,” says Dru Avery, the Demons center. “He’s always in control out there.”

Watching Stonehouse in the pocket is like watching an accountant during tax time.

Calm, cool, but there’s an urgency about him. He’s in control, even when the rush is about to engulf him.

After Stonehouse was stuffed at the 2-yard line on fourth down in the first quarter to halt a 92 yard drive, he wasn’t thinking about that when he returned to the field.

Next time, on third-and-goal from the 1, Stonehouse plowed into the endzone for a 17-0 lead.

“If I get rattled the team gets nervous, so I just try and keep my poise and stay calm and the players react better,” he says.

The next series, the Demons faced a third-and-16. Stonehouse took the snap and surveyed the field. Waiting, waiting, his feet dancing a little as he searched for a receiver. Time was running out and the rush was about to zero in on number 14.

Stonehouse drifted to his left, stopped and launched a gorgeous rainbow, a perfect spiral that pierced the autumn day. Kevin Screen sprinted under the pass for a 57-yard TD. It’s the kind of pass and catch that youngsters dream about.

The dream of winning a state title was alive and well with a 24-6 halftime lead.

Rocky Whitworth likes talking about his players and Stonehouse.

“All these kids are like my boys, I treat them like my sons. I love them, this is a very special group,” he says.

Six years ago, many of these players were sixth graders who won the Super Bowl.

Stonehouse smiles when he talks about his friends and teammates.

“That’s probably the best feeling, to be on the field with all my friends,” he says. “We’re brothers out there on the field, we’ll do anything for each other and that’s how we play.”

As a good quarterback, he always points to the offensive line, the running backs, receivers, coaches and the defense. He deflects praise like bullets spinning off Superman.

Being humble is not an act.

He knows football is the ultimate team sport where every link must be strong to be the best.

“Doc! You’re a rock star,” a fan shouts. Probably half jokingly as Stonehouse patiently does one post-game interview after another. From TV to radio to newspaper reporters, he answers the same questions over and over. Stopping briefly to take a hug from a teammate or classmate, or a fan.

He says “thank you” to everyone who congratulates or praises him.

Another youngster waits with his father for “Doc” to finish an interview. “Dakota, can I have your autograph?”

Again, he smiles and signs his autograph on the ball. Dakota Stonehouse has a name fit for a quarterback and a rock star.

Six years ago, Glenwood football was struggling, just a few years removed from playing a junior varsity schedule.

It needed something. Maybe it needed a savior.

The Demons were slowly improving but still no playoff victories.

As sixth graders, Stonehouse and his teammates dreamed big.

Dakota isn’t a rock star. He’s a quarterback with a dream.

A sophomore. That’s when coach Whitworth recognized he had something special in Stonehouse. With his spread offense, he needed that special quarterback who could run and pass.

The recipe started to simmer.

“I remember working with him, just the two of us, off on our own. I was teaching him things about throwing the ball, about the game. Back then, he just absorbed it all,” the coach says.

“He’s the best,” Stonehouse says of Whitworth. “He’s taught me the game, everything I know. I didn’t really know that much my freshman and sophomore years and he’s brought me up to where I am now.

“It’s just been a pleasure being around him,” Stonehouse says.

When he talks, he doesn’t sound like a high school senior. He’s mature, almost polished. But everything is genuine.

As sixth graders, they were little guys playing football. They were good, but still so far away from being special.

But it was the dream that kept them focused. For Stonehouse, it was the dream that kept him working.

It was the dream that tormented them after Sterling came to Glenwood last year and humbled them right out of the playoffs. Sterling was a nightmare that ruined their dream in 2007.

“We don’t want that feeling ever again, and we’re going to do everything in our power to not let that happen again,” Stonehouse says about Sterling.

Those are the games that keep football players humble and focused. Since then, Glenwood has been on a mission. One week at a time. They’ve powered through the Western Slope League and three playoff games. They have now won 13 straight.

“We try and keep everything week to week, and we always look just one week ahead, staying in the present,” Whitworth says.

The present is what these players have dreamed about since they first took the field as youngsters. This is what they’ve dreamed about since they won a sixth-grade Super Bowl six years ago.

“We’re so excited right now I can’t even describe it,” Stonehouse says allowing himself to smile as he thinks about what might happen next Saturday. “Our entire team is ready for this. Since we were little kids we wanted to win a state championship.”

They aren’t little kids anymore. They’ve grown up a lot but the dream has stayed the same size.

It’s a dream every football player has. For Stonehouse and his teammates, it’s one victory away from coming true.

The dream resides in the eyes of this quarterback, like they have since he was a youngster.

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