Glenwood football eyes step forward in year 2 under Engle
Head Coach: Pat Engle, second year
Last Season: 5-5 overall, 4-1 in 3A Western Slope League
Key Returners: Dylan Albright, Sr.; Spencer Cloud, Sr.; Kelton McPherson, Sr.; Elliot Walz, Sr.; Tucker Porter, Sr.; Sam Fitzwilliams, Sr.; Thor Melby, Sr.; JP Simpson, Sr.;
Players to Watch: Nolan McPherson, Jr.; Bryce Wheeler, Jr.; Camden Hassell, Jr.; Jahirie Labare, Jr.; Garrett Dollahan, Jr.; Wheatley Nieslanik, Jr.; Blake Nieslanik, So.; Rustyn Randolph, So; Brady Porter, Jr.; Crosby McMahon, Jr.
The Glenwood Springs Demons football team opened up the 2018 season with a five-week stretch that was arguably one of the toughest in the state of Colorado.
It came while the program was breaking in a new coaching staff under head coach Pat Engle, who took over for Hall of Fame coach Rocky Whitworth.
During that stretch, Glenwood went 1-4, but the experience gained while playing five projected league champions helped set the Demons up for a strong close to the season.
Glenwood went 4-1 in the 3A Western Slope League, finishing at 5-5 on the year.
That run to close the season helped Glenwood gain respect in the state as the Demons received a top-10 preseason vote under Engle, putting Glenwood back on the map in 3A.
Now, that same five-week stretch begins the season once again. The Demons will have to find a way to replace the all-state caliber production of running backs Gavin Olson and Luke Gair, who both graduated out of the program.
Fortunately for Glenwood and coach Engle, senior quarterback Dylan Albright returns, as does senior fullback Elliot Walz. A number of experienced linemen return, as well, highlighted by senior center Spencer Cloud and senior right guard Kelton McPherson, among others.
“I think there were so many really, really good things that came out of that early-season schedule,” Engle said. “I think as a society today, we want to avoid tough stuff, but for our football program, we want to go right at it.
“I re-upped with those same teams for this year because it was so good for us to go through that adversity early in the year last year. So I’m expecting it to be good for us this year as well.”
After that tough stretch to open the season, the Demons rolled through league play, winning all four games while scoring more than 40 points in each league win. The Demons pushed eventual league champion Palisade through halftime, before the Bulldogs pulled away late.
Thanks to that dominance in wins over Eagle Valley, Summit, Steamboat Springs and Battle Mountain, Glenwood was able to get a look at some younger players, especially on offense. That gave some looks at kids who will try to replace the production that Olson and Gair took with them.
JP Simpson, Jahirie Labare, Stephen Morris, Garrett Dollahan and Blake Nieslanik will all get some looks in the backfield with Walz, giving Glenwood serious depth this year.
Defensively, Glenwood has to replace quite a bit of talent on that side of the ball as well, highlighted by standout safety Wyatt Ewer, as well as Olson and Gair, among others. Losing that leadership on the defensive side of the ball can be tough.
“Wyatt’s leadership on the field was incredible,” Engle said. “He was a great player and a person, so I’m waiting for someone to step up in that sense. Wyatt was like another coach on the field. You can’t replace a kid like him, but we’ll try and plug that hole.
“I think we got bigger all over the field, and we’re trying to continue to build depth on defense. We feel pretty good in the secondary, depth-wise, but it’s all about shaking things out once the games start.”
If last season was a sign of things to come, the Demons will be up for the early season challenge, especially after losing two of the four games in that five-game stretch by eight points or less.
If Glenwood can turn those losses into wins, and can continue to roll through most of the 3A schedule, it should push for a state playoff berth.
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John Iuele’s fadeaway jump shot as time expired propelled the Demons to a thrilling 38-36 overtime victory against the Montrose Indians in the championship game of the Demon Invitational Tournament at Glenwood Springs High School.