Grand Valley faces Olathe with 2A title on the line
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Most everyone in the Western Slope football world knew Grand Valley wouldn’t have much trouble making the classification leap from 1A to 2A.
Especially Olathe head coach Ryan Corn.
“We expected that,” he said. “Look at their school size. They should have been playing with us last year. Their school size is just about where we’re at. We expected them to be right here.”
Where is right here?
That would be on the precipice of a Western Slope League championship in the Cardinals’ first season as a 2A football school.
Corn and his Pirates are out to make sure that doesn’t happen tonight in Parachute, where Olathe and Grand Valley will clash with the circuit crown up for the grabs.
Olathe enters 9-0 overall and 6-0 in league, while the Cardinals are 8-1 and 6-0. Grand Valley’s lone loss: a Sept. 12 defeat at the hands of Hayden on a day head coach Mike Johnson checked into the hospital to undergo an appendectomy.
The rattled Cardinals limped through a dud of a game, losing 28-7.
It’s been a wildly different story ever since. With their coach checking in and out of the hospital battling post-procedure infections on a seemingly daily basis, Grand Valley has rallied behind its ailing coach to reel off six straight victories.
A seventh consecutive win at Olathe’s expense would be the sweetest of them all.
“It’d be a pretty big accomplishment, I’d say,” Cardinals senior running back Colton Cowan said, “to win league, to establish a powerhouse franchise.”
Cowan and his teammates know the Pirates will provide a heck of a hurdle to clear. The smash-mouth squad relies heavily on the run and its massive line to push teams around.
Behind the bulky offensive line, big back David Rhodes, who weighs in at more than 200 pounds, is the Pirates’ chief ball carrier and has terrorized opponents throughout the season.
Grand Valley, too, revolves its offense around the ground game behind Cowan, the team’s 6-foot-2-inch, 204-pound back.
“Both teams have tremendous backs,” Corn said. “They have Colton Cowan and he’s a good athlete. He runs well and has great vision. We have David Rhodes, who’s equally tough. It should be a good battle.”
And it’s been the teams’ offensive lines that have paved the way to backfield success.
“For either of those backs to do anything, you have to have a good line,” Corn added.
Needless to say, whoever wins the battle up front will no doubt win the game.
“It will be won on the line,” Cowan said. “If they get the job done, we’ll win. If they don’t, it’ll be a long night.”
Whether it’s a long or short night for the Cardinals, it’s a night they’ve been anticipating for some time.
“It’s probably the biggest game of the season,” senior running back William Waugh said. “It should be the best game of the season.”
And it comes as no surprise, neither to Olathe nor Grand Valley, that the Cardinals, in rising to the 2A challenge, are in the mix for a title in the final week of the season.
“We’ve been looking forward to this year,” said Grand Valley’s interim head coach, Jeremy Tanner. “We knew we’d be right in the mix. This group we have has been a long time coming. We’ve been working toward this for a long time.”
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