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Former Bears gridders thrive in Mavs uniform

Jim Noelker/Free Press Former Rifle Bear Justin Brun number 92 grabs Mesa State halfback Charles Dukes during the Cardinal and White Scrimmage last weekend at Mesa State College in Grand Junction.
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GRAND JUNCTION – Alfonso Alfini and Justin Brun’s blue-collar approach to football has been rewarded.After spending a number of seasons as backups at Mesa State College, the preseason work ethic of the Rifle High School graduates has put them in key roles for the 2004 Mavericks. Alfini, a senior, is the starting fullback. Brun, formerly a defensive tackle, has switched to defensive end for his junior year. Ryan Whittington, who played with Alfini and Brun at RHS, is out for the year after injuring his ACL during a team scrimmage just before Mesa’s season opener with Central Oklahoma on Aug. 28.”(Rifle head coach Darrel) Gorham knew that players like us would fit in really well at Mesa State because we’re based on the same type of discipline and hard work,” Alfini said. “It’s not our talent, it’s because we get after people.”Gorham added, “Those kids at Mesa State didn’t get there because of what happened at Rifle. It was because of the work ethic they developed within themselves.”

Brun agreed. But Mesa’s success under coach Joe Ramunno was a factor in his signing with the Mavericks as well.”At Rifle, winning nine, 10, 11 games for four years was something I was used to,” Brun said. “After Mesa won that first RMAC championship in 2000, that really motivated me. I didn’t what to play for a loser. I could have gone to Fort Lewis or Western State, but the RMAC champs were recruiting me.”Last year, Alfini and Brun helped the Mavericks win their second Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title in four seasons. And, along with their increased roles, both players have their goals set on earning Mesa State it’s second-straight conference crown this year. Prior to back-to-back losses to Central Oklahoma and North Dakota the last two weeks, the Mavericks were 13th in the Division II football poll.Mesa State (0-2) opens conference play Saturday afternoon at Grand Junction’s Stocker Stadium against Fort Lewis.Brun said how well the Mavs do this season depends on how quickly the team comes together.

“That was the thing last year,” he said. “We really jelled together as a team, and we’re starting to find that right now. It’s a whole different team that last year, but we know what we can do. We know we’re better and we know what we have to accomplish this year.””It’s not the personnel you have, it’s how well you play together,” Alfini added. “That’s the thing with our team, if we can get everyone on the same page, we can be really good.”Feeling comfortableAlfini, who has played linebacker and in the offensive backfield at Mesa, said playing both positions in high school made his adjustment easier.”At Rifle, I had the opportunity to go both ways, so it wasn’t that much of a transition from going to linebacker to fullback.” At Mesa, Alfini said his main job is to be a good blocker.



“Blocking is crucial,” he said. “You might get the ball a couple of times a game, but that’s just for short-yardage situations. As a fullback, if I can seal my man and do my assignment correctly, we’ve got a lot of good running backs behind us and we’re going to have some great plays.”Brun’s move outside from defensive tackle took some time to get used to, but he’s adapted.”I started as a defensive tackle from middle school – that’s what I played my whole life,” Brun said. “Last year I started at D-tackle, and it wasn’t really working out. I got kind of bounced around inside, so they move me outside.””It took a while to get used to,” he said. “There was more responsibility to contain the offense, but now I’m really settled in and it’s a good fit for me. There are a lot more challenges than at defensive tackle, but, I’ve taken them on pretty well.”Hard work and perseverance.”One of the things I picked up from Rifle is the work ethic that a lot of the DII guys have,” Brun said. “I got that at Rifle. Hustling around and being the first at every drill and being the first in line. That’s what I brought here and that’s what I try to do every time – show the coaches that you’re coachable and ready to go.””If a high school kid has ambitions to play (college football), you have to be coachable and you have to be willing to work,” Alfini said. “I think that’s what got both of us here. We’re not amazing athletes. We we’re just willing to do certain things.” “If a high school kid has ambitions to play (college football), you have to be coachable and you have to be willing to work,” Alfini said. “I think that’s what got both of us here. We’re not amazing athletes. We we’re just willing to do certain things.”


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