Many happy returns for Danny Manzanares at Grand Valley High School
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
PARACHUTE — Danny Manzanares had always hoped he’d get a job as a high school head football coach. It’s safe to say he’s pretty happy to land that gig with his alma mater.
“I’ve always wanted to coach and be the head coach of a high school program,” said Manzanares, who has assumed the duties as Grand Valley High School’s head football coach. “Just the fact that I get to do it at the school I went to is fulfilling a dream of mine.”
Manzanares, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2007, played for and was an assistant coach under Mike Johnson, who resigned this past November after 14 years as the school’s football coach. Manzanares followed his playing career with the Cardinals with a red-shirt season at Mesa State College — now Colorado Mesa University — in Grand Junction and started coaching following that season.
He spent four years as an assistant coach under Johnson, serving as the running backs and linebacker coach. He was the head football coach at Grand Valley Middle School for the past two seasons. That gives Manzanares familiarity with players who are moving on into the high school program, which reached the Class 2A state playoffs as recently as the 2012 campaign.
There’s still a learning curve when it comes to getting to know the players on this year’s roster, and Manzanares will have plenty of time to get to know his players during summer weight-room sessions. That will be a big thing as Manzanares assembles his coaching staff for the season.
“Our guys will have to realize that it takes a lot of time and commitment for us to be a successful program,” said the coach, also noting that he’d like to change the culture of the team back to what it was when it regularly saw success. “Being successful on the football field isn’t just about showing up to play on Friday nights. There’s a lot of work that goes into it.”
A drop in Grand Valley’s enrollment will move the Cardinals from the Class 2A Western Slope League to Class 1A, playing against teams like Paonia, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Lake County and Meeker. Teams from the 1A WSL have reached the state semifinals for the past three years, with Cedaredge winning the 2012 state title and Paonia claiming the 2013 crown in Class 1A.
Manzanares’ game philosophy will be establishing a running game on offense and playing fast and tackling well on defense. He’s hoping that philosophy will help bring success back to Grand Valley, which had to forfeit its two victories last year due to the use of an ineligible player.
“Having played and coached at this high school, I’ve seen the ups and downs that it’s been through,” Manzanares said. “I’m just hoping that I’m able to make an impact.”
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Photographer Kyle Mills and editor Alex Zorn took home awards at the recent Colorado Press Association Convention, held in Aurora.