Heinsma triggers Junction’s offense
He’s the triggerman to the power pistol. He’s the guy who lights the fuse, and fireworks ensue.
He’s Tyler Heinsma, the guy who ignites the explosive Grand Junction Tigers’ offense.
Big, strong, fast, elusive, Heinsma showed the Westminster defense what it’s like to face a physical quarterback.
In the 32-8 first-round Class 5A football playoff win Friday night over Westminster, Heinsma was a one-man wrecking crew.
In the third quarter, the senior QB got to the outside, and Westminster’s Ryan Belearde measured him up for a big hit. It was more like bracing himself for contact and going low. Smart decision.
But Heinsma went high, hurdled the defender and left him with a couple arms full of Stocker Stadium air. Sixteen yards and a first down.
Two plays later, Heinsma sliced up the middle, lowered his shoulder and plowed over a defender for 5 yards. First down and four defenders credited with the tackle.
The quarterback Heinsma has become has been a work in progress, and now he’s more than just the triggerman. He’s a feared weapon in the power pistol offense.
“I really feel like he’s taken our offense to another level,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “He doesn’t get the credit across the state, but he’s playing as well as any quarterback has played in a long time.”
High praise from the coach, and on Friday night Heinsma backed it up. Not a great job throwing the ball, only three completions, but as that big physical runner — 16 carries 201 yards and three touchdowns — he was a beast.
As a junior, he wasn’t quite ready to assume the role of runner, thrower and leader that he is now.
He grew into that role this season both physically and mentally. His development came with a lot of offseason work and some lessons from a great Grand Junction quarterback from the past — Sean Rubalcaba.
“Sean did a great job his senior year on showing me what I had to work on,” Heinsma said about Colorado’s Gold Helmet winner in 2011. “He really helped show me how to be a better leader.”
For Owens’ offensive system to chew up yardage and put points on the board, it depends on the quarterback. This season Heinsma has led that offense to be one of the most explosive and feared in the Class 5A ranks.
“He’s made such strides from last season,” Owens said. “He’s a guy that I rely on so much. Anytime your quarterback is playing well and you can trust him, it just opens up the play calls.”
Owens loves to keep opposing defenses guessing, and with Heinsma being part battering ram, part magician, part traffic cop and all leader, the Tigers’ offense has left defenses dazed and confused.
To get to this point, Heinsma had to put in the work in the offseason: throwing to receivers, learning the offense and being the guy who leads by example.
Owens knew he needed Heinsma to be a much better quarterback as a senior if the Tigers were going to be a 5A contender.
“Coach Owens would push me and tell me that for the offense to be successful that I had to play well,” Heinsma said.
In the power pistol, it really is a guessing game for defenses. It’s also about picking your poison. Sometimes it’s Austin Lewis breaking off big runs (he had 101 yards Friday night). Sometimes it’s a quick screen or Heinsma loading up and going deep. And on Friday, it was Heinsma being part fullback and part tailback.
Averaging 41 points per game, Grand Junction’s offense is as powerful as any in Class 5A. And Heinsma is the gunslinger that reloads and fires away.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pounder has grown into a great quarterback. He runs, he throws, he leads, and Grand Junction wins.
Next week, the Tigers take the next step in their 2013 mission to keep going in the playoffs.
The Columbine Rebels will be ready for the power pistol, but no one has stopped it yet this year.
For Owens, he again has the big strong quarterback to pull the trigger and keep the scorekeeper busy.
“We had Sean Rubalcaba for four years, and Tyler had to fill those shoes,” Owens said. “With our offense, it’s crucial for the quarterback to play well, and obviously Tyler is playing well. Right now we’re difficult to stop.”
Shoes filled, but mission not yet accomplished for Tyler Heinsma and the Grand Junction Tigers.
Unstoppable? So far with Heinsma running the power pistol, the answer is yes.