Wildcats, Tigers ready for another chapter in valley showdown
Fruita Monument High School custodian Darlene Byrum knows the deal.
It’s the same sound each year.
She walks by the Wildcats’ locker room before a Thursday football practice — the day before the Fruita-Grand Junction football game.
“They’re usually raring to go Thursday night,” Byrum said. “The locker room is hopping to where you have to yell at them to settle down.”
The shouts she hears from the Fruita locker room aren’t the only ones echoing from this rivalry’s past.
The Grand Junction (4-1) and Fruita Monument (1-4) game at 7 p.m. Friday at Stocker Stadium will be about more than players, and the obvious size differential between the giants on No. 8-ranked Grand Junction’s lines and Fruita’s speed and scrappiness and refusal to die in the final quarter.
Vince Grasso knows what else it’s about. The Fruita running back had a mother, a father, two brothers and a sister attend Grand Junction High School. Yet he grew up playing for the Fruita Cowboys in the Mesa County Junior Football League.
“Sometimes it’s not as much the football players as it is everyone else,” Grasso said. “They talk more than the football players do sometimes.”
So let them talk.
“It is a city versus country rivalry, definitely,” Grand Junction sophomore Taylor Chaffetz said. “We just always want to beat them. There’s just so much intensity, we want to beat them so bad.”
And, oh, the chants.
“It’s definitely funny because some of the cheers that we do are funny,” said Grand Junction sophomore Kaitlin Lynch. “Such as, like, the ‘Smells like Fruita,’ and then we all clap, and also, ‘Fruita, what is your profession?’ and then we all do a little digging motion because they’re farmers.”
Added Lynch: “There are people I like at Fruita. There’s nothing wrong with being a farmer; I just find it funny.”
In all sports of this rivalry, the fans tend to chant “GJ all day,” and, “Fruita, Fruit-AHH!” back and forth. Those are their trademarks.
During a Fruita Monument at Grand Junction basketball game last season, a section of Fruita fans embraced the country theme, dressing as cowboys and cowgirls.
“A lot of people who have been in the valley a long time have parents who may have went to Grand Junction,” Tigers coach Robbie Owens said, “and their son went to Fruita.”
“All my family supports me and root for Fruita in the game,” Grasso said. “It’s not like they’re rooting against you or anything.”
Grand Junction, whose offense is led by quarterback Tyler Heinsma (386 yards passing, 293 rushing), running back Austin Lewis (632 yards rushing) and a host of college-bound linemen such as Austin Berk (Colorado State University), James Diamanti (University of Wyoming) and Kyler Rose (undecided), to name a few, will take on Fruita, led by Grasso (578 yards rushing), quarterback Jake Lynch (421 yards passing) and wide receiver Zach Griggs (141 yards receiving.)
“They’re a big team,” Fruita coach Sean Mulvey said. “They do a good job of utilizing their size, and they’re a physical team. We have to put in a game plan that’s going to be positive and will have us being fast and being quick and being tough.”