Fire to be the best burns within Tigers’ Dennis

Jerreon Dennis has been a handful for opposing defenses this season, running for 1,853 yards and 26 touchdowns for the 10-0 Tigers, who play Chaparral on Friday in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.


Grand Junction (10-0) vs. Chaparral (7-3)

Class 5A State Playoffs

Friday, 7 p.m., Sports Authority Stadium, Parker

Radio: 1340-AM (KTMM)

Notes: Grand Junction lost to Chaparral 42-0 in a 2009 Class 5A first-round game.

Grand Junction, coming off a 51-17 win over Chatfield in the first round, is averaging 381.1 yards per game and 44.4 points per game. Jerreon Dennis has rushed for 1,853 yards and 26 TDs and quarterback Sean Rubalcaba has passed for 1,090 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 1,063 yards. Chandon Rose has 748 receiving yards and nine TDs.

Dennis rushed for 262 yards and four TDs against Chatfield.

Chaparral (7-3) defeated Westminster 49-8 in the first round and is averaging 34 points, 188 yards passing and 142 rushing yards.

Sometimes, a fire’s source is unknown.

His blueish-green eyes tell a story of peace, and his activities, particularly that of video-gaming, do not exactly make you think, “warrior.”

Tuesday afternoon, Jerreon Dennis was almost asleep in the Grand Junction High School locker room, an arm dangling from a trainer’s table.

The black letters etched on a green wristband told the previous night’s story: “MW3 .. GameStop ... 11-8-11 ... Midnight Launch.”

What? Didn’t you hear? Modern Warfare 3 “Call of Duty” was released Tuesday.

Dennis and some friends showed up 9:30 p.m. at GameStop, bought the game just after midnight, then did not stop playing until the sun thought about taking a peek at Earth.

Just days away was the No. 2-seeded Tigers’ second-round Class 5A playoff game against No. 18 Chaparral, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at Sports Authority Stadium in Parker.

Kids these days. All they do is play video games.

Dennis is right there with them.

You wouldn’t know it, though, by his other passion.

The 180-pounder’s 1,853 yards and 26 touchdowns this season indicate productivity. The defenders he leaves snacking on grass says something more. A combination of speed — Dennis ran an 11.5-second 100-meter dash in track last season — and strength — he maxed out at 260 pounds on bench press last summer — has possibly made Dennis Division I worthy.

His dream is to play for the best, maybe Alabama, but he would sign up for immediate playing time at Colorado, Colorado State, Eastern Washington or North Carolina, for instance.

For now, he’s picking on high schoolers, both on varsity and on the 10-0 Tigers’ scout team defense.

“I don’t get run over by most people, but he runs me over,” said scout team defensive end Dan Burns. “Last week he left a bruise on my shoulder when I tried to stop him.”

Naturally, on coach Robbie Owens’ NCAA Football 2012 video game, Dennis’s overall ranking is “99.”

Owens made “Grand Junction” his custom team and entered each of his players.

So how is Coach to tell his players to lay off the truck stick?

“I’m bad, too,” Owens said of his video-game habit.

Growing up in Price, Utah, Dennis wasn’t just a kid glued to the TV, playing video games. His orange Mongoose bicycle won him a few races, but he lost plenty more.

“I was pretty slow as a kid,” he said.

He still was relatively undersized when at age 11, his family moved to Grand Junction.

But he already was hitting harder than the rest of the boys.

“In eighth grade, his fire was not controllable,” said Mark Litzen, Dennis’s coach with the Bookcliff Chiefs of the Mesa County Junior Football League. “I coached football 11 years and never saw a kid hit like he did.”

Despite his strength, Dennis says he was a bit slow. Wins in bicycle and running races did not come easily. Maybe that’s the reason Dennis spits out the thought of losing. The loss to Regis in last season’s Class 5A state quarterfinal still races through Dennis’s nervous system.

But he isn’t the nervous type. When he started as a freshman, Dennis said he didn’t get the shakes. He just shook defenders.

Away from the field, Dennis speaks in low tones and walks as though he has an hour to get to bingo — the on-field punisher soaks in relaxation.

“He gets along with everybody on the team,” tight end and defensive end Austin Berk said. “He’s not uptight at all.”

And who knows more about Dennis than wide receiver Chandon Rose?

“He hates being cold; he runs the ball good; he likes girls,” Rose said.

When opponents talk to Dennis on the field, he is not listening. Always focused on fun and winning, or whatever needs to be done, little bothers the laid-back bruiser.

Still seated on the trainer’s table, Dennis began speaking about Chaparral, how its defense loves to fly around.

“It’s win or go home,” Dennis said, calm yet hunched, a tiger waiting to pounce.

Someone outside began pounding on the door.

“I just have to do whatever it takes ... ” Dennis said.

The pounding grew louder.

” ... just have to make sure I do what I can,” he said.

Even louder now.

Dennis didn’t budge.

Somewhere inside, the spark was about sear the kindling.

But not until Friday.


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