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Third year a charm for Titans?

Joelle MilholmPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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PEACH VALLEY – For the first time in its three-year history, the Coal Ridge boys basketball team is complete. The Titans have seniors for the first time, they have height in the middle that will match up with others in the Class 3A Western Slope League, and they have talented forwards and skilled guards to hold it all together.Two of the five seniors, 6-foot-7 Alex Klein and 6-5 Blake Todd, will look to control the middle for the Titans, and will be assisted by 6-3 junior power forward Evan Wagstrom.”I looked at some film from last year and the difference in size, all the way around, is a big difference. I am totally amazed,” said three-year head coach Mike Cox. “They all look like not little kids anymore, not like a bunch of little freshmen.”

Skyler James will be a swing man between guard and forward, hoping to continue racking up the high point and rebound totals his aggressive style of play has netted in the past. He’s also hoping the team can jell together.”Our biggest goal is attitude and team play. That’s what we want to get out of this year because, for some of us, this is our last year. It is our first year graduating people,” James said. “We just want to have a fun season and whatever the outcome is is up to God and just our attitudes.”Junior Eric Schmitz and sophomore Andy Smedra will be handing the guard positions for Coal Ridge. Both saw a lot of playing time last season and both are good ball handlers, good percentage shooters, and both can find the open guy and play tough defense, resulting in a high number of turnovers. That was evident in a handful of steals each in a scrimmage on Friday against Grand Junction Central.Seniors Braxton Jackson and Robbie Higgins figure to contribute for the Titans as well, with Higgins’ toughness as a forward and Jackson’s ability to play as a No. 3 guard. Cox knows his players have got the talent, but he wants to make sure they don’t ignore the We worked all summer and continue to work every day, we do 40 to 50 minutes of fundamentals,” he said. “We work a little bit on offense and defense, too, and we just work on trying to improve every day.”The Titans will open their 2007-08 season this weekend in the Brenda Patch Tournament at Roaring Fork High School. Outside of the formidable host – the Rams are four-time defending 3A WSL Champions – Coal Ridge will also get a taste of Class 4A action with games against Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs.

As the Coal Ridge girls basketball team embarks on it third season of play, its members will do it with their third head coach. Rick Schmitz, a veteran coach of 27 years who spent 12 of those with Rifle High School, will be commanding the Titans and is happy to be back out on the court.”It is a blast. … I feel like I am kind of starting over. I have been off for two years, and I am learning along with the players, but we are having fun so far,” Schmitz said. “They are working hard, and they are trying to do the things that we (the coaching staff) are asking them to do.”Schmitz, who is taking over for last year’s coach Tiffany Robison, will have a familiar face next to him as one of his assistants is valley coaching legend Jack Smith. Smith, a longtime Rifle coach, coached with Schmitz at Roaring Fork. The veteran coaches appear to have a talented squad on their hands that includes the team’s first and only senior, Callie Schlegel, as well as seven juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. So far, Schmitz and his team have concentrated on two things.”What we need to try and establish first is defending and rebounding. Those are the two things that have been the focus, will be the focus,” he said. “That’s my starting point always with every team I have coached, and it’s getting there. It is a work in progress.”



With the young team still in a developing stage, Schmitz, who’s also the athletic director at Coal Ridge, wants his players to work together to advance their skills and become better at the game. He believes that’s not necessarily in accordance with record.”My goal as a coach (is that) I don’t worry about place or wins or losses, just that by the end of the year we are the best team that we can be and that way at the end of the year, we don’t have any limits,” he said.The Titans held a six-team scrimmage on Saturday with Rifle, Glenwood, Grand Junction, Hotchkiss and Roaring Fork all coming and getting their first test against other teams.”That will be a good gauge against some other people to see where we are at,” Schmitz said before the scrimmage. “I think we are sick of each other right now. We just need to play some different people.”Coal Ridge will play its first games this weekend at the Brenda Patch Tournament at Roaring Fork High School.


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