Vidakovich column: If those banners could talk
This season, when I attend basketball games at Glenwood Springs High School for this newspaper, I sit in the stands on the south side of the gym with a clear vantage point to all of the banners that hang proudly on the north wall. I’m familiar with the stories behind most of those teams who will forever live in the annals of the decorated Demon sports tradition.
I attended many of the state tournament and playoff games that are recorded on those cloth documentaries of days, and athletes, gone by. If not a witness to the great games, I heard many times the stories that were passed down to me by the older generations of Glenwood players, coaches and fans.
Without further explanation, here are my memories of those banners (I stuck with just basketball this go around) that I will pass along to you in chronological order.
• 1968 Boys Basketball State Runner-up: Glenwood’s last-second loss to Crowley County in the state championship game may be the most classic story I have ever been told in Demon lore. Bob Chavez’s team was leading by a single point with just seconds to play when Glenwood guard Chuck Sheehy dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds while trying to help run out the clock. Crowley County inbounded the ball and made a shot — or a heave — from just inside half court to claim the state title. Coach Chavez and many others have recounted this story to me. Many folks are unaware of this, but Crowley County was coached that year by Doug Schakel, who went on to guide Mesa College to many successful seasons in Grand Junction.
• 1971 & 1972 Boys Basketball State Runner-up: I noticed these banners right away, because my brother, Dick Vidakovich, was a starting guard on both teams, and both banners are incorrect. I was at each of these state tournaments and Glenwood finished as consolation champions (5th place) both years after losing their first tourney game. In ’71 the Demons lost to Highland Ault to open state, but then came back to defeat Center and Denver Christian. The ’72 team went to Denver at a perfect 22-0 and were the pre-tourney favorites. Led by Kirk Lyons, Jon Swartzendruber and John Courier, the Demons encountered foul trouble and were upset on opening night 76-72 by Fountain. Glenwood defeated a very good Hotchkiss team on Saturday afternoon in the consolation final. Hotchkiss had two outstanding players in Martin Brodel and Jim Allen who both went on to play at Mesa College.
• 1974 Boys Basketball State Runner-up: Another near miss banner that saw Glenwood clipped in the waning moments against the Brush Beetdiggers. I was at the game and it appeared to me and many Demon fans that guard Robbie Chavez had made a clean steal of the ball on Beetdigger guard John Lynch, and was headed in for the game winning layup when a late whistle by the official nullified Chavez’s steal and the Demons’ title hopes.
• 1975 Boys Basketball State Champions: A team led by Robbie Chavez, Ron and Don Nadon, Jerry Law, Doug Laven and Eddie Frink came back the next year, defeating Holy Family 96-86 to give Coach Chavez his first-ever state title. The score of that game was indicative of most high school basketball games back then. Run and gun, but lots of fun.
• 1979 Boys Basketball State Champions: At 23-0, Glenwood’s best team ever. I may sneak into the Chavez-Spencer Gym late one night, steal this banner and put it in my garage. I think it belongs there. No?
• 1984 Boys Basketball State Champions: Rick Sorensen, one of Glenwood’s best-ever at the guard position, led this team to a title with a thrilling 51-50 win over Florence at McNichol’s Arena. Jon Baranko, Craig Amichaux, Mike Metheney, Mike Scott and James Flohr were a pretty good supporting cast for Sorensen, who was voted the state’s AA player of the year.
• 1985 Boys Basketball State Runner-up: Sorensen came back for an encore his senior year, but a very good Denver Lutheran team had other ideas, making Glenwood a bridesmaid once again.
Though it’s not displayed on the gym wall, Glenwood finished as state runner-up in boys basketball in 1960. It was Coach Chavez’s first season as head coach and the Demons lost in the then class “A” final against Akron.
Much like old people, those banners contain a library of stories about young lives and their wonderful accomplishments in that one shining season long ago.
Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com
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