No. 2 " Ram gridders advance to state semis for first the time since 1985 |

No. 2 " Ram gridders advance to state semis for first the time since 1985

Prior to the 2003 season, Roaring Fork High School football coach Tory Jensen admitted that anything less than the Class 2A state semifinals would be a disappointment.

The Rams didn’t disappoint; although they would have liked to see their season last one more game.

Powered by running back James Leonard and roster loaded with 17 seniors, Roaring Fork plowed through the regular season with a perfect 9-0 mark. Only one Class 3A Western Slope team played the Rams closer than 28 points and Roaring Fork also notched victories over 3A squads Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

The playoffs didn’t start out any differently. While the offense struggled at times in the postseason, the Rams defense was solid and the offense managed to get untracked in time to advance through the first two rounds.

Playing on their home field in the first round of the playoffs, Roaring Fork broke open a 7-3 game late in the third quarter and went on to down La Junta 27-3. On the road in the second round, it took an interception and 14 fourth-quarter points ” including a touchdown in the final minute ” to overcome Estes Park 21-17 for a ticket to the semis on their home field against the Denver Christian Crusaders.

With the stands packed well beyond capacity, the Crusaders showed why they were considered one of the best defensive teams in the state.

Denver Christian shut down Leonard, who had over 1,600 yards rushing on the season, and the rest of the Rams offense. Leonard amassed only 33 yards rushing and Roaring Fork netted under 100 offensive yards in the 28-0 loss.

“They had an answer for everything we did,” Jensen said after the game. “Things we had done well all season, they just took away from us.”

Still, it was the first semifinal appearance by the Rams since 1985. And the Crusaders turned out to be the state champions after defeating Eaton for the state title the following weekend.

Jensen was named the WSC coach of the year, Leonard earned co-player of the year honors and six other seniors joined him as all-conference first-team selections. Six other Rams earned honorable mention kudos.

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