Roaring Fork football struggles to field its junior varsity team

Roaring Fork High School quarterback Jasper Germain runs the ball against the Coal Ridge Titans during a game in what appears to have been the school's last varsity football season, at least for a while.
Post Independent

Coaches and administrators knew coming into the 2018 season that it would be a tough task trying to rebuild a storied Roaring Fork football program from the ground up. They also knew it would be tough to field a junior varsity team this fall, and unfortunately, things have turned out that way early in the season as the Rams have just six players turning out consistently for football practice under new head coach Dave Close.

Making the trip over from Buena Vista every day for practice, passing up on other jobs near home to try and revive the proud Roaring Fork program, Close has struggled to get kids to turn out this year, often having more coaches than players on the field through the first week of fall practice.

Prior to this season, Close was the Roaring Fork coach from 1987 to 1996, and was used to having 40-plus kids come out for the team, allowing the Rams to have two-a-day practices. Now, the Rams are struggling to get as many as six players on a daily basis.

Previously, Roaring Fork set a deadline of August 13 to have 15-plus players come out for the team, or the season would be canceled. With that deadline having come and gone with no up-tick in turnout, the Rams have pushed that deadline to Friday, August 24, which is the end of the first week of school.

With the extended deadline, the Rams have canceled their scrimmage with Buena Vista this week, and are going to cancel their scrimmage with Basalt on August 27.

“We’re hoping to get kids to come out for the team the first week of school,” Roaring Fork Athletic Director Jade Bath said. “A lot of kids are working, or are out of the valley for the summer. We hope that when they return to school, we can get some kids to come out so that we can have a season.”

The prospect of losing the football program this fall is one that’s hard to fathom for Bath, who ran out to get the kicking tee following kickoffs as a middle schooler, while her dad helped compile stats for the Rams.

“It’s hard to say what it would be like to not have a team at all,” Bath said. “I remember the reaction last winter when we said we were going to drop down to a junior varsity schedule for the next two years. Some people supported the decision, and others were upset with the decision. Tradition is a big thing in this community, and if we don’t have a football team it will hit a lot of people hard.”

Bath cited programs such as Aspen and Basalt as good examples of area schools that dropped their football programs in the past and rebuilt them into successful teams now. For now, the Rams hold out hope that an influx of young players will turn out during the first week of school, keeping the proud program afloat, at least for the first year under Close.

Close sent out a letter to parents last week, trying to alleviate their fears of the sport for their children, while also trying to drum up interest. In the letter, Close told parents and players that they can contact him at any time.

“We know RFHS football is presently at rock bottom. You can’t get much lower than the 2017 season they had only two players showing up for the first day of practice. But the good news is we have nowhere to go but up,” Close said.

Close and the Rams continue practice this week in Carbondale, starting at 5:30 p.m. and running until 7 p.m. each night.

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