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The Glenwood Springs Demons saw firsthand Friday night what it takes to be an elite team. And, using the Class 3A No. 1-ranked Rifle Bears as a measuring stick, Glenwood is about halfway to every team’s ultimate goal – being the best.

Glenwood tied the top-ranked 3A team in the state in the first half of Friday’s game. The Demons also finished the season with half the wins Rifle posted in its perfect 10-0 season.

Finishing 5-5 is a far cry from undefeated and heading to the Class 3A playoffs as the top seed. But it’s also a far cry from the 2-7 mark the Demons posted last season.

Glenwood is certainly making strides since re-establishing the varsity program 1998. The Demons won their first homecoming game this season since suspending the varsity program, and also finished .500.

But there is still a long way to go – Rifle showed as much on Friday. Rifle, after a lackluster first half, asserted its dominance over Glenwood and rolled to a lopsided victory.

The 7-7 tie at the end of the second quarter was a moral victory for Glenwood. The 40-23 final was a lesson for the Demons on how far they still need to go to join the elite ranks, and how much they need to learn about winning.

The Bears players know how to win and, this season, haven’t accepted anything less. After the intermission the Bears defense didn’t allow Glenwood a positive yard from scrimmage until the Demons’ offensive third series – by then Rifle was up 21-7.

That’s called putting a team away.

While Glenwood got a taste of winning this season with its five victories, Rifle feasted on it. The Bears expected it as the main course every time the they stepped on the field.

This expectation of winning doesn’t start with the senior class or the junior class, it starts with the freshmen – the players who act as tackling dummies all week, then have the “honor” of sitting on the bench in the team’s moment of glory.

You can bet when the opportunity arises, that former bench-warmer will take a stab at the brass ring in an attempt to bask in the same spotlight he saw from the sideline.

Take Rifle running back Troy Weiss. In his sophomore season he was a slot back and not the focal point of the offense. He entered this year as the featured back in the offense and tied the same school touchdown record (23) he watched quarterback Mike Whittington set. Weiss also led the 3A in yards-per-carry average.

Rifle coach Darrel Gorham describes Weiss as “matured.” This may be true, but he was also allowed to step to the front of the line at the buffet table. Given the opportunity, he gobbled up all the yardage he could. Considering he was starving for that yardage for two years, his performance shouldn’t be unexpected.

In the past five years Glenwood hasn’t had the luxury of making players bide their time and get hungry.

This was the first year Glenwood head coach Craig Denney wasn’t forced to start underclassmen. Eventually, players like sophomore quarterback Chris Toler and sophomore running back Adam Vincent worked themselves into the starting rotation, but it was due to their play, not simply because the Demons needed another body on the field.

Next season Toler, Vincent, the entire starting Demon secondary return next season, along with a bevy of other underclassmen.

Replacing seniors like Chase Warner, Jeremy Ureche and Mike Triebel will not be an easy task, but this year’s seniors showed future Demons just how much better winning tastes.

And if the young Demons, the ones who may have sat on the bench this season, continue to develop their palate, Glenwood could be fighting the Bears in a season finale that’s meaningful to both teams in the near future.

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