Familiar faces highlight season opener

Jon Mitchell
Post Independent Sports Editor

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A familiar opponent will line up across the line of scrimmage from the Glenwood Springs High School football team tonight.

Conifer, a semifinalist in the Class 3A state playoffs a year ago, was the first team the Demons played during their 2012 campaign. And familiar faces will come with those familiar uniforms the Lobos will be wearing, as their best running backs and a top-tier linebacker are back for their senior seasons.

Likewise, Glenwood Springs returns its starting quarterback from last season, along with a top-tier linebacker and its starting running back.

So there will be a lot of familiarity when Glenwood hosts Conifer, the fifth-ranked team in the preseason poll, at 7 tonight at Stubler Memorial Field.

“They’re very, very good,” Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth said of the Lobos. “We have to play our best football right away.”

Conifer went 10-3 in 2012, with one of those victories coming in a season-opening 42-19 win over Glenwood at Conifer. The Lobos also played some opponents familiar to Glenwood, including Evergreen (a 17-10 loss) and Rifle (a 38-7 loss). Conifer went on to fall to eventual state champion Silver Creek, 24-7, in the 3A semifinals.

Each one of those teams the Lobos lost to were postseason teams, and Conifer brings back some of that roster’s key components this season.

One of those is senior running back A.J. Eleniewski, whose 1,701 all-purpose yards last season led the team. He finished with 1,208 rushing yards, which was second on the team to returning fullback Matthew McClintock (1,347). Both of them could be the go-to running backs in the Lobos’ run-heavy offense.

On defense, Conifer returns Brandon Payer (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), whose 151 tackles a season ago — 122 of them solo — were a team high.

Then again, the Demons have some key players back this year, too.

Among them is senior quarterback Travis Lundin, who threw for 1,594 yards and seven scores last season on 139-of-222 passing. Defensively, senior linebacker Garrett Lowe (5-10, 225) had 85 tackles last season to lead Glenwood.

One person Conifer didn’t see last year, however, was Henry Hill. Glenwood’s senior running back missed the first two games of the 2012 season with a broken collarbone, then went on to rush for 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns in the Demons’ last eight games of the season.

Glenwood will have a week off following the zero-week matchup before playing its Class 3A Western Slope League opener at Palisade on Sept. 5. Conifer hosts Centaurus on Aug. 31 and, on Oct. 12, will host Rifle in a non-league game.

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