Fruita Monument ready to take next step
It’s time to take another step. It’s time to make the playoffs.
Fruita Monument football coach Sean Mulvey is in his third year as the head coach and fourth year in the program, and he sees things this year that are new in his tenure.
He has a core of seniors who have been through four years of strength and speed sessions, and those seniors wanted to be good football players, so they worked at it. And with that desire and work ethic, they have become leaders who in turn are teaching others.
“Leadership is our biggest piece,” Mulvey said. “We’ve been building for years to get everyone pulling in the same direction and lose the ego.”
Mission accomplished. Now comes the next step: parlaying all of it into more wins and a playoff berth.
Winning hasn’t been the way of the Wildcats on the gridiron for the past decade. Last year’s 5-5 overall mark was the first nonlosing season since 2004, when Fruita went 6-5.
Moreover, the Wildcats went 3-1 in the conference, an accomplishment that required an upset of Grand Junction, and Fruita was a 28-25 loss to Montrose away from winning the Class 4A/5A Southwestern Conference. That would have put the Wildcats in the playoffs, and that’s where they’re determined to get this season.
“We let some games get away from us last year,” said Mulvey, whose team was within eight points of three teams it lost to in nonconference games. “We made an important step in our program’s growth — to come close. I think it stoked the fire.”
Quarterback Jake Lynch, a senior with a good arm and no quit in him, says Mulvey is right about the Wildcats wanting more this year.
“It’s been a while since we went 5-5,” he said. “Our team goal is to get into the playoffs and make a name for ourselves and the program.”
The Wildcats return seven starters on each side of the ball, and Lynch plays both sides at a high level. He’s primed for a better senior season as Fruita’s signal caller after throwing for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns on the way to first-team all-conference recognition last year. He also ran for 463 yards and four scores.
“He knows the offense,” Mulvey said. “It makes a world of difference in the huddle, makes a world of difference with the coaches’ confidence. ... He has more intangibles than you can list.”
Lynch has a new weapon to throw to, but it comes at the expense of the offensive line. Matt Story was first-team all-conference as a center last year, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior will move to tight end this year.
“He’s such a smart player,” Mulvey said. “The thing we’ll miss the most is him on the line making the calls. He’s a great blocker, great athlete. He can jump through the roof.”
Story’s pass-catching presence should help free up senior wide receiver Brandon Kubic, who led the Wildcats with 22 catches for 285 yards last year.
One reason Mulvey could reassign Story is the Wildcats return size, experience and quickness up front, led by Ty Schroeder, a 255-pounder who was second-team all-conference at tackle, and senior guards Nathan Hammond (6-0, 240) and Dakota Detwiler (6-0, 225).
Hammond also mans the interior line on defense alongside 250-pound Josh Thompson, and Schroeder will join them on that line.
“We have stability on the line for the first time since I’ve been here, both sides of the ball,” Mulvey said.
The Wildcats boast team speed again, as Mulvey said, “I don’t know if we’re as fast as we were last year, but we still have some kids who can fly. Some of our big kids are fast.”
Questions remain at some skill positions, but the Wildcats are better equipped to provide answers as they buy more every year into what Mulvey and his staff are selling.
“They put themselves in a position to compete with anyone,” Mulvey said. “At the end of the day that’s all you want. You want a shot to win in the fourth quarter.”