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Vidakovich column: The Rifle rivalry revisited

Mike Vidakovich
The 1947 Glenwood Springs football team.
Yearbook photo image

 

A few weeks back, my friend Craig Amichaux stopped by my house with some literature from the distant past that he thought I may find of interest. His brother, Calvin, had stumbled upon the unlikely story of the Glenwood Demon’s 1947 football journey through the old Yampa Valley League under the direction of second-year coach Nick Stubler, and he wanted to share it with me.

What makes the story most compelling is not Glenwood’s mediocre 5-3-3 final record, but the fact that the Demons and their ageless rivals, the Rifle Bears, played three games that season — each of them ending in a 0-0 tie.



The Amichaux brother’s interest in uncovering the story and motivation for researching a high school football campaign that took place many decades ago is simple. Their father, Paul Amichaux, was a standout running back and defender on the team that would ultimately go on to capture the league title in an unusual sudden death playoff format at the conclusion of the final scoreless deadlock with the Bears.

According to records researched at the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood, what follows is a brief recap of Glenwood’s most peculiar 1947 football season.



The new gridiron year started out for Glenwood in much the same fashion as it did for this year’s 2022 group. A spunky unit of young Demons traveled down the road to take on the Grand Junction Tigers. The result in the season opener this year for Glenwood (a 21-13 loss) was a lot closer than the 19-0 setback an inexperienced Demon team absorbed in 1947.

The Demons were kept winless in week No. 2 of the season, suffering a 7-0 setback at Hotchkiss before pushing their way into the victory side of the ledger with a 19-6 win over Palisade in Glenwood. Then the conference season came around, with the first game on tap being a date with Rifle’s Bears.

As is always the case with these two schools, a hard fought battle ensued, but neither team could put a dent in the scoreboard and it was a 0-0 tie when the players and coaches shook hands at midfield.

Glenwood then reeled off consecutive victories over Meeker and Fruita before the second tie of the season was recorded against a strong team from Craig. The Demons knocked off Grand Junction Central to conclude the regular season portion of the schedule.

With the Demons and Bears both sitting together at the top of the league standings, a playoff game was in order on Armistice Day, 1947, but another 0-0 tie further entangled an otherwise fine record for Glenwood.

One week later, Grand Junction was the site of yet another Glenwood-Rifle fray, this time in the state playoffs. It was a hectic and see-saw battle, as we have all grown accustomed to seeing, but the score was again 0-0 as the final gun sounded. This time, however, an overtime period was needed to settle the outcome.

The format gave each team six downs, with the ball being placed at midfield. The team who gained the most yards after these plays would be awarded the win. The Demons managed to outgain the Bears after the 12 plays were complete. Glenwood got as close as the Rifle 35-yard line, and thus were awarded the 2-0 victory. When all was said and done, Rifle and Glenwood had played three complete football games with neither team able to cross the opponent’s goal line.

The next week saw Glenwood drop the Western Slope championship game, as Delta eked out a 6-0 win.

For those of us who grew up in Glenwood, some of the names on that ’47 team you may remember. Along with coach Stubler and Amichaux are Charles Dever, Bill Colohan, Ernest Donegan, Norman “Buzz” Simillion, Ernie Rowe, Don Vanderhoof, Babe Pretti, Donald Heuschkel, Bill Davies, Fred Buckowich and Gene Brockway.

I’m pulling for Friday night’s rivalry game between the two storied schools to end in a 0-0 tie, both at the end of regulation and overtime. I will smile in knowing that the spirits of those two 1947 teams were all over Bears’ Stadium and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.


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