Prep Football: Bears host Devils in league opener; Demons travel to G.J.
Eagle Valley High School’s John Ramunno is in his 34th season as a head football coach. During this time, Ramunno has experienced his share of thrilling victories, and endured defeats that take up permanent residence in the memory.
He’s coached playoff teams, and teams with losing records. Ramunno has been through it all during his tenure on the sidelines, and he knows what it takes to guide a team to the top of the league standings, even if he and his Devils do reside in the brutal Class 3A Western Slope League.
“This is a very solid league,” Ramunno said. “If you are lucky enough to make it out of our league, you’re going to have a good shot in the playoffs.”
Ramunno will jump on the bus with his football team and head down Interstate 70 on Friday night to take on the Rifle Bears, who are ranked No. 3 in the Colorado Associated Press Colorado Class 3A poll. It’s one of those tough matchups that seem to come each week in the WSL, and Ramunno hopes his team will be up to the challenge.
“They are a good football team, no doubt about it. They have a lot of returning players,” Ramunno said. “Rifle comes off the ball well and stays with their blocks. They’re well coached at all levels. We know we have to be ready to stop the run, but they’re passing the ball well this year, too.”
The Bears are, in fact, going to the airways this season much more than they have in the past. A primary reason for the newfound offensive balance is the extensive work Rifle put in during 7-on-7 competitions throughout the summer. Also a factor has been the play of senior quarterback Layton Stutsman, who veteran Rifle coach Damon Wells calls “A football rat,” because of Stutsman’s love of working on his game and passion for being around anything that has to do with football.
“He’s also a great student and a great kid,” Wells is quick to add.
Stutsman is a more than capable passer, which gives Wells an equal amount of confidence in his offense, regardless of which method they choose to try and move the football.
“We’re just as happy passing the ball as we are running it,” Wells said.
And yes, Wells is very familiar with the man who will be standing just across from him on the opposite sideline on Friday night.
“Coach Ramunno has seen it all. It’s going to be a very good high school football game.”
In other games this week:
GLENWOOD SPRINGS (1-2) AT GRAND JUNCTION CENTRAL (1-2): The Demons, smarting from a cross-state bus ride and a 54-21 setback at the hands of the Brush Beetdiggers, invade Stocker Stadium on Friday night hoping to pick up a win in their first 3A WSL game of the young season. G.J. Central snapped a 21-game losing streak when they defeated Vista Peak, 41-32, on Sept. 5. Glenwood will hope to build some much needed momentum heading into a tough league schedule.
COAL RIDGE (2-1) AT OLATHE (2-1): Coach Kyle Sager’s Titans are coming off a 27-7 victory at Grand Valley, but the level of competition goes up a bit this week with the journey to Olathe. The Pirates feature a three-pronged rushing attack in quarterback Mitchell Carlson and running backs Mario Hightower and Chayden Harris. Coal Ridge will counter with Jared Duran, who rushed for 124 yards in last week’s win. The Titans will have to play like their namesake in order to come away with a road win in this one.
ROARING FORK (1-2) AT GUNNISON (2-1): The Gunnison Cowboys look to be hitting on all cylinders after trouncing Moffat County 49-0 last week. Roaring Fork will have to put together some offensive consistency after dropping a 34-6 decision to a very good Olathe team in Carbondale this past Friday. The Rams are well coached, and they show signs of being a good football team. They will have to prove it over the course of 48 minutes against a solid Gunnison team.
BASALT(0-3) AT GRAND VALLEY (0-3): Something has to give in a positive way in this tilt of two winless teams. Cardinal coach Danny Manzanares, in his first year as the head man, will be looking to pick up a victory and get a confidence boost for his team before entering 1A WSL play against the likes of Meeker, Paonia, Cedaredge, and Hotchkiss. Grand Valley was limited to 95 yards of total offense last week against Coal Ridge. They will need more firepower this week on their home field in order to achieve a mark in the win column.
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Montrose will pose a tough challenge for the Demons to win their home tournament. “They’re a team that every year has a well-disciplined program that executes, plays hard and is well-coached,” Glenwood coach Fred Heisel said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.” Game time is 2:30 p.m. at Spencer-Chavez Gymnasium at GSHS.