An exciting season lies ahead in Western Slope Leagues | PostIndependent.com

An exciting season lies ahead in Western Slope Leagues

The Glenwood Springs Demons listen to the national anthem before their season's first game on Friday night at GSHS.
Colleen O’Neil / Post Independent |

When I first moved to the Western Slope last August, I had no idea what lay before me with high school sports coverage.

As you can imagine, I came in as green as possible, not knowing any of the coaches, players, athletic directors and other key members of the five schools originally in my coverage area. What made that so tough was that two days after my first day at the Post Independent, the first official high school football games for the local schools kicked off.

It’s hard enough to cover high school sports year to year with the ever-changing names, coaches and systems, but this was basically tenfold for me. I had no clue who the coaches were, what players to watch (let alone who wore what number), and I had no clue what type of football to expect.

But I was certainly in for a great surprise. You see, the brand of football I grew up around was the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style that I played growing up, so watching teams like Rifle, Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and Roaring Fork feature a heavy ground game was quite fun to cover, while Glenwood Springs did something different that provided more of a “modern” style of play with the spread option.

The football in the area was entertaining and kept me on my toes throughout the season because I didn’t really know what to expect week to week. I loved that as a reporter.

But I’ll be honest, football season wasn’t always fun for me.

Last fall was a complete whirlwind for me personally, considering the big move across the country I had just made while trying to keep my head above water professionally in a valley that expects great local sports coverage day to day.

That was hard for me to do at first because I had so many relationships to establish and trust to gain, all while trying to provide the best possible coverage I could.

Fortunately for me (and I’m sure the readership as well), I made it through football season and really found my footing shortly thereafter.

Now, heading into my second full year at the PI — and my first full summer of football coverage leading up to the regular season — I’m much more comfortable with where I’m at personally and professionally. That, I hope, plays a significant factor into the coverage I’ll look to provide you this fall.

As far as the actual football goes, though, I’m exceptionally excited to get this season started. Despite being overlooked overall, the Western Slope Leagues have plenty of talent top to bottom, especially locally.

Glenwood dealt with a significant number of unlucky injuries last year, so hopefully the injury bug will leave them alone and allow a young team under Rocky Whitworth to put together a full season and see just how much talent and potential they have, especially at skill positions.

In Rifle, it’s business as usual around the team, but I’m itching to see how the Bears bounce back from a tough close to last season while also replacing some great players from that program.

Coal Ridge should take a significant step forward in year two under Trorie Rickert, especially offensively. I’m intrigued to see just how the Titans’ offense can click on all cylinders with many key players entering their senior season.

The same can be said for Grand Valley, at least in terms of heading into year two under Tim Lenard. Snapping the 26-game losing streak that dated back to 2012 was a great way to end last season for Lenard and the Cardinals, and combining the amount of young, dynamic talent they have at skill positions, 2016 should be a good one for Grand Valley as they break in a new facility.

Finally, Roaring Fork should give Carbondale fans plenty to cheer about this season. There is a strong foundation in place under Jeff Kelley, who is also heading into his second year at the helm.

There’s tons of veteran talent there, so this could be the year the Rams return to the 2A playoffs.

If everything breaks right for all the teams in the valley this season, we could see all five heading to the state playoffs. Personally, that’s what I’m hoping for.

All summer long I saw how hard these kids around the valley were working and preparing for the season. Based on the amount of work put in, every kid deserves a trip to the playoffs. That would be great for Western Slope exposure and could break some poor narratives about the competition on this side of the Rockies.

So, I wish nothing but the best of luck and health to all the schools here in the valley.

I’m looking forward to covering you all here in my second year with the PI. Let’s get started!


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