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Western State leads the way with eight Western Slope FB signees

Fruita Monument High School Principal Jan Keirns, left, congratulates the six students who signed a national letter of intent Wednesday. The signees, from left to right, are: Morgan Young, Sarah Mercer, Rebecca Arotin, Zach Griggs, Vince Grasso and Spencer Fair. Griggs, Grasso and Fair were three of eight Western Slope football players to sign with Western State Colorado University.

Hotchkiss High School’s Conner Beard signs his letter of intent to play football for the University of Nebraska-Kearney on Wednesday.

Of the dozens of area high school football players who inked national letters of intent during national signing day Wednesday, eight are headed to Western State Colorado University.

Colorado Mesa University had its share of signees with four, and Colorado School of Mines grabbed two.

Division I signees Austin Berk of Grand Junction, headed to Colorado State University, and James Diamanti, headed to the University of Wyoming, long ago committed to their colleges.

Rifle running back and safety Ryan Moeller, who rushed for 3,002 yards and had eight interceptions, has not committed, Rifle head coach Damon Wells said, but Moeller has been offered walk-on spots at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. Wells said Moeller wants to play for a Division I school, but he also wants a scholarship.

Grand Junction High School, meanwhile, has five athletes committed to colleges. On Wednesday, Matt King, a Tigers linebacker and tight end, signed to play at Mines with Grand Junction teammate Kyler Rose.

“Matt was just a scrawny little freshman,” Tigers coach Robbie Owens said during the Tigers’ signing ceremony in the school’s gym, “but he’s probably one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever coached.”

Also for Grand Junction, linebacker Johnny Pauli is headed to Colorado State University-Pueblo.

“It’s probably like Junction in size,” Pauli said of Pueblo. “It’s close to Denver and Colorado Springs, but it’s not a big city. I liked that.”

Fruita Monument also sent a slew of athletes to the next level. Running back Vince Grasso (1,296 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns last season), wide receiver Zach Griggs (12 receptions, 205 yards) and kicker Spencer Fair (eight field goals) committed to Western State.

Central High School joined the Western State signing frenzy as well. Wide receiver Josh Weller (52 receptions, 894 yards) and linebacker and fullback Noah Sanchez also signed to play for the Mountaineers.

Others headed to Western State are Montrose’s Travis Hauger, a 6-foot-3, 263-pound defensive end, and Cedaredge twin brothers Carter and Cade Wasser.

“We’ve been playing against these kids so long,” Griggs said, “and now we’ll be teammates.”

Griggs said the proximity of Western State and the friendly coaching staff led by head coach Jas Baines may be reasons so many Western Slope athletes are headed to Gunnison.

But there are more reasons than just location and coaching. Grasso said he’ll benefit from Western’s style of offense.

“They run a zone (blocking) scheme similar to what we ran in high school,” Grasso said. “That will help out. And they’re a very run-heavy team. That was nice.”

Likewise, Sanchez hopes he’ll fit in.

“They run the single-back offense, but also the I (formation),” Sanchez said. “I also might be a hybrid tight end/slot kind of guy.”

Weller, meanwhile, said he will stay at wide receiver. He said he plans on being a roommate with Griggs.

“It’s a good way for fast chemistry,” Weller said.

Carter Wasser, a fullback and linebacker who rushed for 1,280 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Cade Wasser, a wide receiver (429 yards receiving) and cornerback (six interceptions), helped lead the Bruins to the Class 1A state football title.

Palisade High School Athletic Director Mike Krueger said Bulldogs quarterback Luke McLean will sign next week to play for Colorado Mesa University. The date and time for Palisade’s signing ceremony is to be announced.

Hotchkiss, meanwhile, sent a trio of its own to college. Conner Beard, a 6-foot-3 tight end who caught 18 passes for 423 yards and eight touchdowns, will head to the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Beard dislocated his right shoulder twice in high school, the second time coming in the Bulldogs’ state semifinal loss to Cedaredge. Hotchkiss coach Zac Lemon said Beard had reconstructive surgery to repair the shoulder.

Lemon said Nebraska-Kearney didn’t seem to be concerned about Beard’s shoulder.

“They’ve seen shoulders like that before,” Lemon said. “We even talked to Conner’s surgeon, and they expect it to hold up.”

Hotchkiss’ Jacobe Galley, who rushed for 2,111 yards, is headed to Colorado Mesa.

“He’s just excited to go,” said Lemon, who thinks the Mavericks are likely to play Galley on defense at linebacker, where Galley also started for the Bulldogs.

Lemon also expects Hotchkiss guard Zack Taylor to soon sign with Hastings (Neb.) University.

Montrose linebacker and tight end Blake Alexander will play at Colorado Mesa.


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