Glenwood Springs High football preview: Demons don’t fear scary league
Post Independent Sports Editor
GLENWOOD SPRINGS DEMONS
HEAD COACH: Rocky Whitworth (10th season)
LAST SEASON: 8-4 overall, 6-2 Class 3A Western Slope League play, lost to Delta in quarterfinal round of Class 3A state playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS, OFFENSE/DEFENSE: 5/5
BASE FORMATIONS, OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread Option/3-4
KEY RETURNERS: Sam Carmer, Sr., C/LB; Evrett Marr, Sr. S/WR; Dante Sparaco, Soph., QB/LB; Robert Hiles, Sr., DE/OT; Chase Nieslanik, Sr., TE/OLB; Cristian Gonzalez, Sr., OG/LB; Zane Lundin, Jr., WR/CB; Tristan Harris, Sr., NG.
COULD MAKE A SPLASH: Luke Prosence, Sr., RB/LB; Shane Cleverubga, Sr., LB/RB; Matt Townsley, Jr., OL/DL; Jake Gentry, Sr., WR/DB; Matt Osier, Jr., RB/S.
POTENTIAL KEY GAMES: Sept. 6 vs. Conifer; Sept. 26 vs. Palisade; Oct. 24 vs. Rifle. Each of Glenwood’s three nonleague games will be tough, but Conifer has reached the postseason each of the past eight seasons. The Demons host defending co-league champ Palisade in late September, and their late-October matchup against rival Rifle could have league-title implications.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — An eight-game winning streak was the key component for the Glenwood Springs High School football team in its run to the Class 3A state quarterfinals in 2013. Early indications are showing that dependency will carry on into the Demons’ 2014 campaign.
“We’re really happy with our new running backs, quarterback and receivers this year, but it will take a little while for the timing and rythm to develop, especially in our kind of offense,” 10th-year Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth said. “But we also feel like our linebacker corps is solid, and we feel like we’ll hang our hats on our defense early in the season.”
That was definitely the case for Glenwood following an 0-3 start to the 2013 season where the Demons were outscored 61-25 in losses to Conifer, Palisade and Rifle. Then came the eight-game winning streak, when Glenwood allowed just 64 points prior to its 13-9 second-round loss to Delta in the quarterfinals.
Only five starters are back from that defense, but there was enough confidence around the Demons’ preseason practice camp that the new players can step in and perform.
“People are going to have to learn their position more and then focus so they can get the kind of attitude that was here with the players we lost,” said senior linebacker Cristian Gonzalez, one of the Demons’ five returning starters on defense. “But I think we’re good, and everybody is getting on the same page early.”
In order to duplicate or surpass that performance in the coming season, Glenwood will have to do it in a Class 3A Western Slope League that could prove to be even stronger than last year, when four of the eight teams reached the postseason. Grand Junction Central dropped down from the 5A/4A Southwestern League into the Class 3A WSL, and Summit also joins the league from the Denver Metro West League. The Tigers will replace Battle Mountain, Montezuma-Cortez and Moffat County, each of which dropped down to Class 2A.
The new-look league doesn’t scare the Demons, though.
“I feel like we had a great defense last year, but I feel like we have a better overall team this year,” said Glenwood sophomore Dante Sparaco, who started at outside linebacker last year and will start at quarterback this season. “I also feel like we have a very tight team this year. We bonded really well during two-a-days, camps and summer lifting. That will be key for us.”
Sparaco, who has already drawn interest from multiple NCAA Division I schools, will take snaps on a Glenwood spread-option offense that lost one of Class 3A’s leading rushers, Henry Hill, to graduation. The Demons, along with their defense, were able to rely heavily on their running game during that eight-game run. That leaves openings for backs like Luke Prosence, Shane Cleverubga and Matt Osier, who Whitworth is very confident in.
“I think there will be plenty of balance there,” he said. “We’re making adjustments based on the people we have.”
Along the go-to receivers for Glenwood will be senior Evrett Marr — whose 23 catches for 231 yards last season are a team high among returning players a team high — and wideouts Zane Lundin and Jake Gentry. Senior Chase Nieslanik will line up at tight end and will also be a threat to catch the ball. Nieslanik, who also punts will also join Sam Carmer and Robert Hiles as a returning starter on defense.
“We had nine players who would play both ways last season, so it was a big loss for some of them to graduate,” Marr said.
“But as good as some of those players were, we still have a lot of good players and others who skipped this past year and are rejoining us now. Plus, people are learning fast. We all feel pretty good about the season coming up.”
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