Mitchell: Plenty for county fall sports teams to appreciate
Saturday’s Class 3A football state title game in Pueblo gave me a chance to catch up and reminisce with some family of mine near Colorado Springs over the weekend.
I had a chance to hang out with my aunt and uncle out in Peyton, a small town without a stoplight on the Eastern Plains which has been their home since the mid-1970s. There, they raised their only child, Jeremy Elliott, who is an older cousin of mine.
Their house sits right next door to the high school football field, and they still hear the roar of the crowd when the Class 1A Peyton Panthers play home games there on Friday nights. But when Jeremy was playing, the lights hadn’t been put up yet. Peyton, at that point, was playing 8-man football on either Friday or Saturday afternoons. And as a child — this was in the late 80s and early 90s, mind you — I remember us driving to places like Fairplay and Cripple Creek to watch games.
Jeremy seemingly never left the field, playing tight end on offense and as a linebacker on defense. And from the time he became a two-way starter as a freshman until his final football season in 1990, Peyton seemingly never lost.
“How many games did his teams lose?” I asked my aunt.
“Hmm,” she said. “Five? Yeah, that sounds about right.”
The games they did win were by a lot. I remember watching a game as a seventh grader and seeing the game end at halftime because, back than, the 50-0 lead Peyton had built instigated the 50-point mercy rule and stopped the game. And there were a lot of those, as Peyton went into the state playoffs unbeaten in three of his four years on the team.
The Panthers, however, never reached the state championship game. Not one. They did reach the state semifinals once, but lost.
Yet, my aunt put things in perspective more than 20 years after their son played in his last high school football game.
“Think about how lucky those boys were to have the kind of success,” she said. “Look at what they can look back on and be proud of.”
Sound familiar, Rifle fans?
Rifle’s football team was devastated following its 30-14 loss to Pueblo East this past Saturday. And try as some of them did to say all of the right things afterward, the expressions on the players faces spoke volumes more.
But think about this for a second. Since the 2011 season, the Bears have lost six games. Six. Two of those have been in state title games, and five of those losses have come against schools with enrollments of more than 1,000 students. That includes Pueblo East, which has an enrollment listed at 1,030. And Rifle also had a lot of players who seemingly never left the field, just like in years past when they were also successful.
Granted, Rifle wasn’t the only Garfield County success story this fall. Coal Ridge reached the 3A volleyball state tournament for a second consecutive year and the 3A boys soccer quarterfinals for the third straight time. Grand Valley made its third straight trip to the 3A volleyball regional, Glenwood Springs was one of five 3A Western Slope League teams to reach the state football playoffs, and Roaring Fork won the ultra-tough 3A WSL boys soccer title.
But like my cousin Jeremy, those kids were on very, very good squads that never had a chance to play for a state title. It just goes to show how hard it is to get that far.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any good memories for the players on those fall sports teams or others in Garfield County. Rifle, however, has gotten to play for two state football titles in three years.
And I’ll be willing to bet that some of these kids will be sitting down with their families two decades from now to remember this stuff.
Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by email at email@example.com.
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