Red, white and due!
PUEBLO – Passionate and loyal, the Grand Valley fans will do anything to support their team.Undeterred by a 300-mile trip, more than 100 of the Cardinal faithful traveled to the Class 2A state tournament at the Pueblo Events Center to see something no one in Parachute ever has – a Grand Valley team making it to the state championship.And boy was the trip worth it. Grand Valley defeated Burlington 85-74 in the title game Saturday night.”It’s amazing because our school had so much history with boys basketball,” said former Cardinal Evan Cowan, who is the older brother of current player Colton Cowan. “When I was in school, we had a seven-year streak of coming (to state). We were able to make it this far and we were always close. We took third in 1999, but this is the first time ever we have been this far. It is huge. It’s hard to explain the feeling that everyone has, being there in the past and seeing the fans and seeing them again now – it’s amazing.”Evan spiked his hair in a mohawk and painted his face with red and white stripes to support his brother. Evan told Colton he would come from his home in Kentucky to see him play if Grand Valley made it to state. He then said he’d go all out if they made it to the “big game.”Jim Gonzales, a former Parachute resident who now lives in Houston, trekked 900 miles on a 22-hour bus ride to see the Cards play.”I am here to see my grandkids too while I am up here, but I wouldn’t have come unless they were in the state tournament,” Gonzales said. “They exceeded all expectations by winning (Friday night with an upset over Evangelical Christian). It’s just a real thrill to watch them.”Proudly wearing white, to match the Cardinals who played in their home jerseys for the first time at the state tournament in the final game, fans waved white cloths and cheered endlessly. “The boys said we want to see a sea of white,” said Trish Braby, the mother of senior center Luke, who handed out the white handkerchiefs before the game. “So that’s what we are going to do.”Parents, kids, and even family friends were on hand to witness the history-making night. Bill Swann, a friend of the McKinleys (Sam McKinley is a senior on the team), and his wife and son came from Littleton to see the game. It’s not a new thing for Swann, as he road-tripped to every single Grand Valley game this season – all 27 games.Gonzales’ stepson James Martin, who still lives in Parachute, has the same Cardinal conviction as his stepdad.”We are from Houston, but have been living in Parachute for about 15 years,” Martin said. “We have been following Grand Valley ever since we got here and every time they go to state, we always go watch them.”Seeing Grand Valley go so far has been an unforgettable experience for Martin.”It gives me chill bumps,” he said.Trish, the team’s scorebook keeper, has only lived in Parachute for six years, but knows how much the accomplishment means to the town – especially considering a phone call to her hotel room.”The mayor (Roy McClung) called my husband this morning from our hotel room and there is going to be proclamations written.”For those who couldn’t get to Pueblo, Sam’s dad Les McKinley, also the District 16 tech director, set up a laptop and sends a feed to Grand Valley High School, where 100 people watched Friday night’s win.Even teams who are Western Slope league rivals during the regular season, jumped on the Cardinal bandwagon. “There’s a lot of controversy about the Western Slope deal. I know there was a chat room going on and a bunch of coaches were saying how the Western Slope couldn’t compete with the Eastern Slope because the schedule, but now we’re here,” Evan said.”Plateau Valley came to sit behind us. Paonia sat behind us, Meeker (whose boys won the consolation finals). It was the Western Slope together proving that the Western Slope is tough.”
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Sign language has become a bit of a competitive strategy on the court for the Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball team in recent years.