Vidakovich Column: The Championship Season
Post Independent Contributor
Preparation for the 1979 basketball season at Glenwood Springs High School began with a group of boys — friends since their grade school years — huddled together in a motel room in Gunnison in early March of 1978.
This group of young men, all juniors at the time, had just absorbed a crushing 54-52 defeat at the hands of the Gunnison Cowboys in a regional playoff game, ending their dream of a trip to Denver the following weekend for the high school state basketball tournament. The Demons’ final record of 16-4 that year would have been considered wildly successful at most schools, and with most teams. Not so with this group.
The plan was hatched, and unanimously decided upon that late evening of ’78. Anything less than an undefeated season and a state championship the following year, would be a complete and utter failure. All hands were on board for the seniors-to-be in that room: Scott Bolitho, Kevin Flohr, Rick Eccher, Glenn Samuelson, Jim Brockway, and Chris Massaro all accepted the challenge that lie ahead of them. The long hours on the asphalt at Sayre Park would begin the following week, regardless of what the fickle Colorado spring weather had in store. It was time to put in the hours and days shooting, dribbling, passing, and playing games against each other, and any takers who would come their way for a challenge.
The endless hours of work that spring paid off earlier than expected when Coach Bob Chavez took his beloved Demons to a game day in Denver on a hot, mid-summer afternoon in July to face some stiff competition in preparation for the start of practice in November. The opponents were Denver Christian, Denver Lutheran and Heritage High School. All highly-ranked teams, with Denver Christian being the headliner as the probable favorite to win the 2A title in ’79.
The fast-breaking Demons, playing at their usual breakneck pace, ran Christian and Lutheran out of the gym on their home courts that day. Following the games, Denver Christian coach Dick Katte congratulated Chavez and told him he would see him in March.
Katte’s prophesy regarding seeing Chavez and his team would be fulfilled, though he probably wishes it hadn’t been.
The state’s top-ranked Demons and Katte’s Crusaders did indeed meet at McNichol’s Sports Arena in March of 1979 to decide the basketball champions of class 2A.
It was a replica on the hardwood of what had transpired the past summer in Denver, as Glenwood toppled Christian 80-62, claiming the school’s second state basketball championship. The lopsided final score was a reflection of the Demons’ entire 23-0 season as only one team, Fruita Monument, would come within 10 points of defeating the Glenwood basketball juggernaut.
Individual accolades poured in for Glenwood following the big win, as Bolitho, Eccher, and Flohr were named to all-state teams in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. Chavez was named Coach of the Year and Flohr was named Player of the Year in class 2A for 1979. Eccher and Flohr went on to have standout basketball careers at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
The dream of the undefeated championship season that started in that Gunnison motel room was realized in an unforgettable fashion that brought together — and captivated — an entire community. The best friends from childhood had etched their names among the greatest teams ever at Glenwood High School. They all remain close to this day.
A brief ceremony to honor the 40-year reunion of the 1979 state champions will take place on Friday night, January 11, at Glenwood High School. Coach Chavez and his team will be introduced between the girls and boys game against Rifle High School.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
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The 40th annual Demon Invitational track and field meet takes place Saturday, May 15 at Stubler Memorial Field.