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Rams reload for 2002 season

G. Sean Kelly

After three consecutive trips to the postseason, Roaring Fork has established itself as a team that reloads rather than rebuilds.

And after losing 13 seniors off last season’s 7-2 (8-3 overall) team that advanced to the State 2A quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Burlington, there is plenty of reloading to be done.

“We lost a lot of seniors who had racked up a lot of playing time,” sixth year head coach Tory Jensen said. “We’re looking at reloading.”

And the consensus among media and area coaches is that Jensen will have little problem filling his coffers with talent. The Rams are expected to be one of the top teams out of the Western Slope 2A Conference and the Denver Post/9News preseason poll has Roaring Fork ranked sixth in the state.

While Jensen said the Rams graduated some size, the team is, “across the board, faster than we’ve ever been.”

Roaring Fork lost two of its top running backs to graduation in Ty Burturd and Kaid Harris, but there should be no shortage of bodies in the offensive backfield with a trio of returners set to fill the void left by Burturd and Harris.

Ross Valesquez and Chad Minor, both seniors, and junior James Leonard all saw significant time on the field last season and will battle for touches. As a testament to the gain in speed, all three players also play in the defensive backfield.

Junior Dan Markoya and senior Evan Carmichael have been battling in camp for the right to replace last year’s quarterback, Jake DeWolf. Both players saw time under center as backups in the 2001 season, and Markoya will likely get the start early in the season.

Junior Misael Fernandez received postseason accolades last year and anchors the offensive and defensive lines. While he is not in the most glamorous positions at tackle and defensive end, he may turn out to be the Rams most dominant player this season.

The key for the Rams, as with any young squad, will be overcoming the lack of experience. And, while he is dealing with a number of new faces, Jensen has his sights set on improving on last year’s postseason run.

“(The state title) is a program goal that we have every year,” Jensen said. “We have the team chemistry and speed to get a long way down that path.

“If we can stay healthy we’ll probably have a good run at it and surprise some people,” he added. “It’s definitely a talented group, it’s just a matter of how quickly we can get over the inexperience factor.”

Jensen expects the Rams to be near the top of the heap at season’s edge, but Cedaredge and Eagle Valley should be battling for the top playoff seeds in the 2A Western Slope as well.

And the Rams will get an early test, facing 3A Glenwood Springs to open the season Friday at 7 p.m.


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