Grand Valley faces playoff veteran Wray
One more day. That’s all the time left before Grand Valley straps on the chin straps for its first taste of playoff football since 1999.It ends a long wait for the Cardinals, who clinched a Class 1A state playoff berth plus the Western Slope Conference No. 1 spot two weeks ago with a 31-8 win over conference foe Soroco.Last week, Grand Valley won its eighth game of the year on a 42-0 decision in a nonconference game against Rifle’s junior varsity.The Cardinals’ first-place finish in the WSC play earned Grand Valley the No. 6 seed among the 16 first-round teams in the 1A bracket. More importantly, it additionally gave them a home game for Saturday’s first-round contest.That’s especially important considering the far-flung geography among Class 1A schools, a fact Grand Valley’s opponent, Wray, certainly noticed when the playoff bracket was released by the Colorado High School Activities Association.Wray is located on the far eastern side of Colorado, a few miles away from the Nebraska boarder. Which translates into an extremely long bus trip for the 6-3 Eagles.It’s an advantage Grand Valley hopes makes up for its lack of playoff experience.Saturday’s game is only the sixth time in the school’s history a Cardinals football team has made the postseason. In its previous five appearances, Grand Valley has one playoff win – a 40-6 victory over Cotopaxi in 1993. Wray, on the other hand, is an old pro when it comes to playoff football.Over the years, the Eagles have a lifetime mark of 28-19. They have reached the state championship game seven times, winning titles in 1984 and 1993.More recently, Wray is making its fifth straight playoff appearance in as many years. Last year, after winning its playoff opener, it fell to Limon, 15-6, in the second round. Since 1990, the Eagles are 8-3 in first-round games.To top it off, Wray’s also close to being 100 percent healthy since practice began in August.After putting their complete starting lineup on the field for the first time two weeks ago, the Eagles have fashioned a three-game winning streak, concluding the regular season with a 54-16 rout of Holyoke last week.Statistics are sketchy, but, a few Wray players do stand out.The offense is led by quarterback Aaron Orr, a 6-foot, 1 inch junior. He is also listed by RockyPreps as the Eagles leading rusher. Complimenting Orr are junior tailback Klint Probasco and senior wide receivers Michael Fruhwirth and Corey Blecha.Grand Valley has a number of top weapons to use offensively.Senior running back Danny Manzanares is listed among the state’s 1A top-10 rushers with more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in 151 carries.The Cardinals are just as dangerous when they want to throw the ball.Quarterback Richard Gallegos has completed well over 50 percent (49-of-77) of his passes this season for 874 yards and nine touchdowns. Receiver Tyler Jensen has been Gallegos’ main target to date, averaging 17.8 yards per catch with five touchdowns.The winner of Saturday’s game faces either Denver Lutheran or Burlington in the second round.
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