Southwestern Conference up for grabs
It sounds like every football team in the Class 4A/5A Southwestern Conference can and will be better this season.
Defending champion Montrose brings back the conference’s offensive player of the year from 2012, tailback Angelo Youngren, and he will run behind four returning starters on the offensive line.
Grand Junction has oodles of experience in the skill positions and a desire to make amends for a disappointing season last year.
Fruita Monument keeps getting better under coach Sean Mulvey, and the Wildcats have good mix of returning linemen and skill players, including first-team all-conference quarterback Jake Lynch.
Central and Durango have new coaches and the belief their programs’ turnarounds can begin sooner rather than later.
But, they can’t all be title contenders. They can’t all go 2-2. Can they?
The general thinking is Montrose and Grand Junction will be the two favorites, with Fruita Monument capable of leaving both disappointed. Then, don’t sleep on Central or Durango.
“The league is getting better and better and better,” Mulvey said. “There’s been no easy games in our league.”
Montrose has won five of the past seven SWC titles, with last season’s crown denying Grand Junction’s bid for a third straight title.
“Montrose is the team to beat,” Mulvey said. “They have been consistently a strong program, and they are going to be tough again this year.”
Then, Mulvey points to the Tigers, saying, “Grand Junction again has a ton of talent, speed and size in skill positions and on the line.”
The first team new Central coach Shawn Marsh mentioned as a favorite was Montrose, and he tipped his hat to the consistent excellence Indians coach Todd Casebier has achieved since taking over the program in 2004.
“Montrose, he has some darn good kids,” Marsh said.
For Fruita, Marsh said, “They’re going to be good again. Their quarterback is going to be awesome. He’ll be one of the top players to watch.”
Casebier says Grand Junction and Fruita, as the two Class 5A teams in the conference, always have to be reckoned with for the title. But, if his team stays healthy and the Indians’ new quarterback and new faces in the secondary come around, “We’ll be in it,” Casebier said.
Tigers coach Robbie Owens doesn’t play coy when addressing his team’s conference expectations.
“We feel like we should be at the top,” he said.
He knows the Tigers have to earn it, though, especially after receiving a hard reminder last fall when Montrose and Fruita Monument beat them, leaving Grand Junction at 2-2 in the SWC.
Marsh likes what he sees from his offensive and defensive linemen, and Mulvey said Marsh can make things happen with them.
“I expect (Central) to be a lot better,” Mulvey said.
New Durango coach David Vogt didn’t shy away from saying the Demons expect to compete against everyone.
“Montrose is the returning league champ and is always a tough opponent. We are ready to take them on and will challenge for the SWC title in 2013,” he said.