Stout Demon defense comes up big in home-opening win
A stout, physical Glenwood Springs Demons defense and two rushing touchdowns from senior Luke Gair keyed a 28-15 Demon win Friday night at Stubler Memorial Field over the visiting Kennedy Commanders in the home opener for Glenwood in front of a packed house and a raucous student section.
Glenwood avenged last season’s 21-20 loss to the Commanders on the road by coming out fast and physical in front of a home crowd, forcing seven punts — blocking one, intercepting three Kennedy passes — one for a pick-six — and forcing a turnover on downs, shutting down the Kennedy offense for three quarters before the Commanders scored late in the third quarter and late in the fourth quarter to make it a game.
“They are running to the ball and executing well defensively,” Glenwood Head Coach Rocky Whitworth said of his impressive defense. “But for us right now, we need to work on finishing. We need to finish on defense, and it’s the same thing on offense. … We have to put together a full game.”
Fortunately for Glenwood, the first three quarters were so good that the Demons had breathing room. Starting off the game, Glenwood forced a quick three-and-out by the Commanders, in which Kennedy didn’t gain a single yard. A punt out of bounds near midfield gave the Demons their first possession of the game, and it was a healthy dose of Gair early as the senior rushed five times for 25 yards on the drive before senior quarterback AJ Crowley found junior slot back Gavin Olson on an out-route from 16 yards out for the first Glenwood score of the game at the 7:04 mark of the first quarter.
Holding a 7-0 lead, Glenwood forced another Kennedy three-and-out before the two teams settled into a defensive battle.
Following four straight punts in the first quarter, Kennedy took over to start the second quarter at their own 30-yard line looking to put together their first real offensive drive of the game.
The Commanders moved the ball to midfield on a 13-yard pass from senior quarterback Diontaye Wallace to junior tight end Riley Mayoral, but four plays later the Demons came up with their first big play of the game as junior Jack Richards raced in to block the Kennedy punt before scooping up the block and racing down to the Commanders’ 15-yard line, giving Glenwood great field position midway through the second quarter.
Five plays later Gair found the end zone for the first time on the night, punching the ball across from five yards out to make it 14-0 following a Tyler Dietrich extra point.
Fired up after the blocked punt and the ensuing touchdown, Glenwood smelled blood in the water and forced another Kennedy turnover, this time senior Felix Cano wrestled a pass away from the Kennedy receiver for the interception near midfield, giving the ball right back to the Demons.
The Demons were unable to do anything with the turnover though, punting the ball back to Kennedy four plays later as a holding call wiped out a great fake punt by Olson that would have given the Demons a first down.
Late in the first half, Kennedy marched into Glenwood territory as senior running back Dionisio Herrera rushed for 21 yards and Wallace found senior Alex Gonzales for nine yards, but the Commander drive stalled, allowing Glenwood to take the ball into the half with a 14-0 lead.
Coming out of the half, the two teams continued to trade punts before Glenwood senior cornerback Luis Mariano picked off a tipped ball from Wallace late in the third quarter, putting Glenwood in great field position near midfield once again.
Two plays later, Gair took an option pitch from Crowley over the left side of the line for a 40-yard touchdown on which he was barely touched, putting Glenwood up 21-0 with 2:38 to go in the third quarter.
With momentum back on the Demons’ side, the Glenwood defense came through once again on Kennedy’s next drive.
Senior linebacker John Jensen, reading his keys in front of him, stepped in front of a Wallace screen pass for the interception and raced 38 yards the other way for the pick-six to put Glenwood on top 28-0 with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
“They’re a good screen team,” Whitworth said. “We were practicing against screens all week, and we knew they’d use it. It was just a great read by John.”
Up four scores on the visiting Commanders, Glenwood seemed to have its second win in the bag, but Kennedy wouldn’t go away.
Following Jensen’s pick-six, Kennedy went on a 12-play, 63-yard drive to get on the board as Wallace found Mayoral from seven yards out. The snap on the PAT was high, forcing sophomore holder Elias Horta to scramble in for the 2-point conversion, pulling Kennedy to within eight at 28-8 with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Glenwood punted the ball back to Kennedy on its next drive, allowing the hot Commander offense to get on the field once again.
This time, Kennedy went 82 yards in 13 plays, capped off by a Horta 12-yard run to make it 28-15, getting the Kennedy crowd back into it.
The Demon offense looked to salt away the game, but a three-and-out gave Kennedy the ball right back.
Fortunately, the Glenwood defense stood tall once again, forcing a turnover on downs. The Demons then fumbled the ball right back on the first offensive play, but a sack deep in Glenwood territory sealed the win at home for the Demons.
With the win, Glenwood improves to 2-0. The Demons host Steamboat Springs Sept. 15 at Stubler Memorial Field with kick-off scheduled for 7 p.m.