There was no stopping the Demons
AURORA, Colorado Aaron Zancanellas eyes were red from crying. Dakota Stonehouse wiped a tear away as he posed for a photo.Tears of joy, more than a year in the making.The looks of happiness and disbelief engulfed the Glenwood Springs players as they hugged, laughed and cried.A state championship victory does that to young men.The Demons just accomplished one of the toughest missions in all of high school sports when they claimed the Class 3A title.Last November, Sterling shattered Glenwoods dream. On Saturday, there was no stopping them.Last year it broke my heart, this year it put it back together, senior Jordan Ciani said without an ounce of over-dramatization.The 23-14 victory over Fort Morgan was made of up of so many ingredients, but none more important than resolve and the concept of team.His eyes still leaking tears and his smile refusing to fade after the game, Stonehouse was almost speechless.The quest, so many years in the making realized, the dream of a childhood quarterback fulfilled, the past now as ancient as bell-bottom pants.Saturday was about victory, but it was also about team and friendship. Thats the power of football. Its the ultimate team sport.Its the best feeling. To be out here with your best friends and to have this dream come true, I wouldnt trade it for anything, Stonehouse said.As he lingered on the field, not wanting to leave, soaking in every hug, every smile, every handshake, it was obvious that a tremendous weight had been lifted from his sturdy shoulders.Among the smiling fans were former players who played in the 1978 & 80 title teams for Glenwood. There were also so many others who played and dreamed of a day like this but never got the chance.Winning a state championship is so very unique. It is indeed the Everest of high school sports.It is so tough, everything has to go right, coach Rocky Whitworth said with a satisfied grin. This is Whitworths second title, his first coming as the head coach of the Roaring Fork Rams a distant 31 years ago.The Demons waited 28 years for this title, the schools third. The win capped an undefeated season 14-0. Something no other Glenwood football team has ever done.Glenwood football had to endure some painful times. A losing streak of 23 games, a program that dropped its varsity program in favor of a junior varsity schedule for one year in 1997.This was a bent program but not quite broken. Time heals. Just like that tormenting overtime loss to Sterling in last years playoffs.And now, Glenwood sits atop the Class 3A ranks and the past is a faded memory.But it was that loss to Sterling that kept these players grounded. Its rare that a team can stay focused on one week at a time. But thats what they did, never looking past the next opponent. Always knowing that a Sterling could be lurking.But they knew they had a special team. They knew that nothing less than a state title would be a disappointment. Last spring, linebacker Keenan Hartert raised his hand in a team meeting and asked a simple question.Coach, do we have a chance at a state championship?I said yes we do. Not just at it, but we have a chance to win it, Glenwood Springs head coach Rocky Whitworth said, recalling the spring meeting.For Hartert, the memories of Sterling still lingered. There was great relief in his voice.Theres nothing left to worry about, theres nothing left for us to do, we did everything theres possibly to do this season. We did it.That tormenting loss served as a springboard to this title.We had to take a lot of lessons from that but ultimately Ill always be thankful for all the seniors from last year for what they taught us and the way they led by example, Hartert said.For Stonehouse, Sterling is a very distant memory. Joy has a way of killing painful memories. But he admits it served as a reminder in this title run.Sterling gave us the motivation to come out here this year and get the job done. We did it for the seniors last year and we did it for the community. We had so many people here today, it was great, he said.This season and this championship is about these players. Players who have laced up cleats and buckled chin straps as teammates for six or seven years. It always takes a team to claim the holy grail of high school football.We have 11 on the field all the time and we need them all to play well. We play for each other, Stonehouse said.Senior Michael Hudson, who ignored the cold and refused to wear long sleeves in the game, savored the quest and the mission.I kissed the gold ball and its the sweetest taste ever. Its better than cake, better than anything on this planet.The Demons were on a mission this season.State championships are hard to come by. And they are earned and they are deserved.For this team, it took painful lessons and hard work and a one week at a time philosophy that kept them from looking too far into autumn.When the state championship game finally arrived, they put their eye squarely on the prize. The prize they dreamed about as youngsters, the prize that was ripped away from them last year, the prize that will now reside in the schools trophy case and their memories for the rest of their lives.Mission accomplished.
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