Prep Football: Cardinals remain focused for season finale
The Grand Valley High School Cardinals have been searching for a victory on the football field the entire season. A golden opportunity is upon them.
The Cardinals will host the Lake County Panthers of Leadville on Friday night in Parachute. Lake County has recorded one win this season, a 40-14 road victory at Byers on Sept. 20. Last week, Grand Valley traveled north to Meeker and faced a 45-0 halftime score before boarding the bus back home with a 52-0 defeat on their ledger.
A football victory, obviously, will be a point of emphasis for first-year Cardinal coach Danny Manzanares and his team this week. There will be another important topic of conversation and concern in the Grand Valley locker room to go along with the preparation for a big game.
The Cardinal players can be excused if their minds wander from the gridiron a bit to the well-being of a teammate who has had a rough stretch with his health recently.
Zach Kelty, a junior offensive and defensive lineman started the year on the Grand Valley roster before suffering an early season concussion. Though he was cleared to play following his recovery, Kelty’s parents decided against their son returning to action. This past week, Kelty suffered an accidental blow to the head, which resulted in emergency surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction to relieve pressure on his brain.
The surgery went well, and Kelty is out of any immediate danger. He has returned home, much to the relief of the small community of Parachute.
“It’s a relief to everyone knowing that he is OK,” Grand Valley football coach Danny Manzanares said. “Everyone knows him. It’s a small town. This goes beyond football.”
The Cardinal program has suffered through its fair share of adversity in the last couple of months since opening drills started in mid-August. Injuries and low numbers have plagued Grand Valley in its initial campaign in the 1A Western Slope League.
“We’ve had some injuries this year. We’re down to 25 kids total in the program,” Manzanares said. “The bright spot is that some of our young kids have played a lot this season. We started three freshman and three sophomores against Hotchkiss.”
Manzanares says his team will need to play at a higher level on Friday night if victory No. 1 is to come their way.
“This is an opportunity for us, for sure. We will have to be better up front. Block correctly with intensity and not be timid. On the defensive side, we’ll need to tackle much better than we have so far,” Manzanares stated.
With Kelty doing well, Grand Valley players and coaches can put worries aside and look to do the same on Friday night. A win in the season finale would be just the right tonic for a young team.
BATTLE MOUNTAIN (5-2, 4-0) AT COAL RIDGE (4-4, 2-2): The Titans of coach Kyle Sager have a chance to end the season in a big way with a victory over WSL-leading Battle Mountain. Coal Ridge eased by Roaring Fork 17-14 last week at Peach Valley to give themselves a chance this week to end the season with a winning record. It won’t be a gimme by any means as Battle Mountain is coming off a 52-28 win at home last week against Basalt. The Huskies’ only losses this season have come to 3A Eagle Valley and Steamboat.
MOFFAT COUNTY (3-5, 2-2) AT ROARING FORK (2-6, 1-3): The Rams fumbled away some golden opportunities in the second half last week in a 17-14 loss at Coal Ridge. Moffat County is also coming off a loss in Aspen last week by a 34-14 count. The Bulldogs need a win in this one, and an Aspen loss at Basalt in order to claim the playoff spot in the 2A WSL North Division. Playoff hopes are a thing of the past for Roaring Fork, but a complete, mistake-free game on Friday against a quality opponent would mean ending the season on a positive note.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.