Experience could return Grand Valley to playoff contention


Grand Valley

Head coach: Mike Johnson, 13th year, 65-54.

2011 record: 3-4 conference, 4-6 overall.

2011 JV record: 6-3.

Assistant coaches: Jeremy Tanner, defensive coordinator/offensive line coach; Travis Fox, wide receivers/defensive backs.

Returning starters: QB/S Tyler Scott, 6-4, 190, jr., all-conference; RB/LB Tanner Zimmerman, 5-7, 180, sr., all-conference; WR/DB Trent Reidle, 6-3, 190, sr., all-conference; TE/LB Stephan Padilla, 6-2, 210, sr., all-conference honorable mention; RB/LB Jacob White, 6-0, 225, sr., all-conference honorable mention; OT Collin Weeks, 5-9, 190, jr., all-conference honorable mention; OG Jacob Hart, 5-11, 210, jr.; OG Michael Salazar, 5-9, 185, sr.; OT Taylor Stubbs, 6-0, 250, sr.; DL Keanu Kamanawa, 6-2, 295, jr.; LB Bryan Hegwood, 6-0, 175, jr.

Base offense: Wing-T.

Base defense: 35.

Key newcomers: DB/WR Junior Stagg, 5-7, 160, sr.; DB/WR Ivan Arizaga, 5-10, 160, jr.

Team outlook: After returning just one offensive lineman last season, Grand Valley returns four this season. And after playing with an entirely new backfield last season, including wide receivers and tight ends, the Cardinals have all of their skill-position players back, including five all-conference players. That includes Zimmerman, who had 894 yards rushing and five TDs, and Scott, who completed 97 of 177 passes for 1,537 yards and 11 TDs. Johnson said the Cardinals need to improve on the defensive side of the ball after the graduation of linebacker David Witt, who had 160 tackles and had two games with more than 20 tackles.

Coach Johnson says: “We’ll miss (Witt), but I think he’s a big part of why this group can be so good. They learned from him, and he really pushed their buttons.”

PARACHUTE — All of the experience the Grand Valley High School football team was lacking going into the 2011 season is a thing of the past going into its 2012 campaign. That, at least, is the way Mike Johnson feels.

“We should be able to hit the ground running with what we want to do,” the 13th-year coach of the Cardinals said. “We have a lot of experience now, and we have a lot of kids who went through that rough year or two. When these seniors came in as freshmen, we’d really been on a roll, and I think that got away from us.

“This group, without predicting anything, I feel really wants to get back there and is very confident that we can do so.”

The Cardinals finished 4-6 overall a year ago following a 3-7 campaign, but had been a yearly state playoff contender prior to that. They won three of their final four games year, including a 34-27 season-ending victory over Coal Ridge after rallying from a 20-0 halftime deficit.

That, along with 20 players with starting experience and six players who received all-conference recognition returning, has the Cardinals believing they can compete in the historically tough 2A Western Slope Conference.

“We’ve improved tenfold compared to the past couple of years,” said senior Tanner Zimmerman, who returns as an all-conference selection at running back and linebacker. “We’re picking up off the momentum we had last season. And with all the returning starters we have coming back ... I think it’s going to pay off.”

Junior quarterback Tyler Scott threw for 1,537 yards as a sophomore and will lead what Johnson anticipates will be a balanced offense. He’ll have 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Trent Reidle to throw to and running backs Zimmerman, Jacob White (fullback) and junior Brian Hedgewood to hand the ball off to.

Johnson admits his squad needs to be more physical on defense, especially in a new-look league that loses Roaring Fork and Cedaredge but gains last year’s Class 2A runnerup, Bayfield, and traditional state playoff contender Pagosa Springs.

Grand Valley opens the season Aug. 31 with a nonconference game at Meeker.


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