Glenwood going for 1st title since 1980 championship

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Hair stylist Hisela Gutierrez comes from Mexico, where soccer, rather than football, reigns supreme.

But football is getting her attention, between all the chatter from her customers recently and the Demon-red balloons that lined the Grand Avenue Bridge outside her Kings and Queens Barber Shop for a Glenwood Springs High School playoff game last weekend.

The school’s team will compete in Aurora for a state Class 3A title today — its first state championship game since winning in 1980. Its success has Glenwood Springs abuzz at a time of year when residents usually get the most excited by snowstorms that begin to coat runs at nearby Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Gutierrez said she hears talk from both male and female clients about the Demons team making it to the championship.

“A lot of them, they’re going to the game, even. It’s a big deal for a little town,” she said.

Signs at area businesses cheer on the undefeated team, which will take on another team without any losses, Fort Morgan.

“It feels like it did in the later ’70s when the team was really doing well,” said Scott Bolitho, who quarterbacked Glenwood to its first state title in 1978.

Bolitho attended last weekend’s 47-14 semifinal victory at home against Mountain View.

“That’s probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen there,” he said.

The school’s athletic director, Craig Denney, agreed, and said as many as 2,400 people bought tickets to last week’s game. Glenwood’s entire population is about 9,000.

Such a turnout shows how far the football program has come back from lean times, including one year in 1997 when it didn’t field a varsity program.

“There were some years there we had more visitors than home (fans), and that was a tough thing to take,” Denney said.

Bolitho thinks today’s team is the best in the school’s history. He partly credits the team’s camaraderie, which he said also made the 1978 squad special.

“I think when you don’t have that, you’re missing the one piece of the puzzle that makes everything click,” he said.

Denney praised this year’s players as “great kids,” but added, “It’s because of the parents they have, the community that’s surrounded them all these years.”

Bobbie Wilson shared similar sentiments. Wilson works for insurance agent Carl Ciani, whose sons Jordan and Nick are on the team, and Wilson’s own son played for Glenwood decades ago.

“All these years, Glenwood’s been a great town to have kids growing up and playing in sports because there’s a lot of parental involvement,” she said.

Headed to his car after a practice this week, polite-spoken player Keenan Hartert stopped to marvel over the outpouring of parental, volunteer and communitywide support for a team headed to a title game.

“Thanks to everyone who helped us get here, including the community and everybody else,” he said.

The lengths of parental involvement were evident on Thanksgiving morning, when many moms and dads gave up part of their holiday to watch their sons practice in light rain, then served pie and hot drinks to players and fans at the school.

One reason for the parents’ dedication may be their appreciation for the team’s coaching staff. Shelley Fishbein — speaking from her downtown Hole in the Wall tattoo parlor, where a red-and-white Glenwood pompon adorns a wall — said joining the program as a junior varsity
player has been a good thing for her son, Daniel. That’s a reflection of the positive influence of the coaches, she said.

“He loves it. … He really enjoys it a lot,” she said.

Glenwood 1985 graduate Tony Valdez has a similar fondness for Demons football, dating back to when the then-youngster watched the 1980 team win the state title. Now living in San Diego, he gathered his family into his RV and drove to Colorado after last weekend’s win. Stopping at Thursday morning’s community reception, he told everyone gathered there how much he was looking forward to watching the team vie for another championship.

“I’m grateful we’re back, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.


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