‘New guy’ Bayfield favored in 2A WSC


About Aspen

Head coach: Mike Sirko, fifth season, 40-15 overall.

2011 record: 7-4.

Assistant coaches: Rube Burbach, defensive coordinator/offensive line; Nick Sirko, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/defensive line; Chris Peshak, wide receivers; James Alridge, outside linebackers; Kurt Ufkus, running backs; Ben Westfeld, defensive backs; Carter Sheriff, kickers.

Returning starters: RB Casey Hornberg, 5-9, 165, sr.; S/FB Dan Schwartz, 6-2, 180, sr.; OL/DL Jake Gellaher 6-4, 220, sr; OL/DL Chris Ryerson, 5-9, 220, jr.; OL/DL Cameron Zweic, 6-0, 215, sr.; C/LB JJ Ready, 5-10, 195, jr.

Key newcomers: QB Luke Ryder, 5-11, 170, so.

Base offense: I formation.

Base defense: 4-3/3-4.

Team outlook: Sirko said there will be many underclassmen getting serious playing time, including starting quarterback Luke Ryder, who transferred to Aspen this year from Colorado Springs. “He had played quarterback when he was younger and played running back, and he came here and got the job,” Sirko said. “That was awesome.” Fortunately for Aspen, Sirko has been a football coach for 34 years and has taken Aspen to the state playoffs the past five seasons.

Coach Sirko says: “When you have 45 kids out for boys tennis, 20 to 25 boys for cross country and 30 out for boys golf, how many kids are left who want to play football?”

About Basalt

Head coach: Carl Frierichs, fifth season, 21-20.

2011 record: 6-4.

2011 JV record: 4-4.

Assistant coaches: Roy Coats, running backs/linebackers; Rob Hurley, defensive coordinator/offensive and defensive line; Jesse Madison, quarterbacks; Jim Quintana, offensive/defensive line; Rob Mobilian, defensive back/wide receiver.

Returning starters: WR/DB Josh Andrade, 5-10, 165, sr; TE/DE Austin Schneider, 6-0, 180, sr.; LB/RB Jonny Medrano, 5-6, 190,  sr.; OL/DL Hayden Quintana, 5-9, 160, sr., OL/DL Fabian Martinez, 5-10, 250, sr.; K/LB/QB Bertilio Garcia, 5-10, 190, sr., two-time all-state kicker.

Key newcomers: QB/LB Matt Williams, 5-11, 160, jr.; RB/LB Cody Banc, 5-9, 155, jr.

Base offense: to be determined.

Base defense: 5-3 and 4-4.

Team outlook: Frierichs is happy about the size of his offensive line and the fact he returns five of eight starters on his defensive front. “And the last two years we’ve been up there in (Class) 2A for the least points against,” Frierichs said. And don’t expect the Longhorns to punt much, or go for it on fourth down, when they’re somewhere past the opponent’s 40-yard line.

Coach Frierichs says: “Before camp I really didn’t know a lot. There were a lot of new faces, but these kids have stepped up in scrimmages, and in the spring I was surprised that our offensive line was bigger than what we’re used to. The only thing is, with Bayfield and Pagosa, it’s such a tough league.”


About Bayfield

Head coach: Gary Heide, first season.

2011 record: 12-1, lost in Class 2A state final 34-0 to Florence.

Assistant coaches: Shawn Tucker, defensive coordinator; Todd McMinimen, wide receivers and slot backs; Bob Bynum, offensive line; Jimmy Cundiff, defensive line; Mike Snooks, linebackers.

Returning starters: DB/FB T.J. Pazell, 5-11, 190, sr.; OL Austin McMinimen, 6-2, 185, sr.; OL Nate Goddard, 6-0, 180, sr.; OL Kevin Donahue, 5-10, 195, sr.; OL Jon Roberts, 6-0, 175, sr.; LB Mike Hawkins, 6-1, 190, sr.; RB Allec Rodriguez, 5-8, 165, sr.

Base offense: Triple option.

Base defense: 3-5.

Team outlook: Bayfield is a returning state finalist that returns 18 seniors. “It’s a great situation to be in,” said Gary Heide, who takes over as head coach for Marshall Hahn. But with its triple-option offense, Bayfield must decide on a starting quarterback. There’s Alex Rodriguez, a senior running back, and 6-foot-1, 170-pound sophomore Matt Knickerbocker, who started last season as a wide receiver. “He’s a very good athlete,” Heide said of Knickerbocker. “And he’s an exceptional baseball player from what I’ve heard, and he also played quarterback last year and everybody knew he’d be in the running to start at quarterback.”

Coach Heide says: “I’m very impressed with our dedication at Bayfield. And I’m very, very impressed with my assistant coaches. They’re knowledgeable and had success here under Coach Hahn. I’m very fortunate.”


About Gunnison

Head coach: Bob Howard, 16 years

2011 record: 4-6 .

2011 JV record: 5-3.

Assistant coaches: Tom Percival, head JV coach; Lany Percival, defensive coordinator; Kevin Mickelson, defensive coordinator;  Chuck Haus, offensive line; Chris Wilson, wide receivers.

Returning starters: OL Casey Nordberg, 6-4, 265,  sr.; TE/OLB Thomas Philips 5-11, 165, sr.; WR/DB Dylan Brown, 5-10, 160, sr.; RB/DE Alex Schliesman, 6-3, 220, sr.; OL/DL Liam Mortell, 6-0, 210, jr.; DB Chris O’Neill, 5-11, 155, jr.; LB Michael Howard, 5-11, 165, so.

Key newcomers: OL/DL Dan Baliczek, 6-0, 180, sr.; QB/DB Taylor Miller, 5-10, 155, jr.; OL/DL David Baliczek, 6-1, 190, sr.; RB/LB Quinn Travis, 6-0, 165, so.; WR/DB Dylan Miller, 5-10, 150, so.; WR/DB Ian O’Banion, 6-0, 150, so.; TE/LB Trey Percival, 6-1, 155, so.; OL/DL Barrett Fuller, 6-1, 180, so.; QB/DB Jake Wallin, 6-0, 150, so.

Team outlook: With several sophomores, Gunnison must mature quickly, Howard said. The Cowboys will be replacing much of their starting backfield plus the loss of returning starter Caleb Wilson to a knee injury.

Coach Howard says: “Our sophomores are young and inexperienced but very talented. We lack depth everywhere with small junior and senior classes, so sophomores will have to be ready to step up and contribute. Can we stay injury free?”


About Pagosa Springs

Head coach: Olin Garrison, first season.

2011 record: 7-3, lost first-round playoff.

2011 JV record: 4-4.

Assistant coaches: Mike Kelly, offensive line/defensive coordinator; Ryan Davis, wide receivers/JV offensive coordinator; Scott Spoede, defensive line/offensive line.

Returning starters: TE/FB/DE Clay Ross, 6-2, 200, sr., all-conference honorable mention; RB/OLB Keith Archuleta, 5-9, 158, sr.; OL Cody Couch 6-2, 235, jr.; RB Jeremiah Miller, 5-9, 140, jr.; FB/LB Chase Patene, 5-8, 170, so.; OL/DL Creede Wylie 6-1, 245, jr.

Base offense: Wing-T.

Base defense: 4-4.

Team outlook: Pagosa Springs remains a favorite in the conference despite losing all-state players Tyson Ross, a quarterback and defensive back, and Daniel Puskas, a wide receiver. Garrison plans to run more this season out of the wing-T and pro-twin formations. Garrison said the defensive line must improve. Pagosa’s strength is on its offensive line, led by Cody Couch and Creede Wylie.

Coach Garrison says: “Last year the defense was hot and cold. We had this 10-day camp where we scrimmaged Alamosa and some other teams, and we weren’t at the level we’ve got to be to be a good team on defense.”

They’re a returning finalist that brings back 18 seniors, and so, naturally, Bayfield is a favorite to win the Class 2A Western Slope Conference.

Bayfield is the new team in the conference. The “new guy.”

Expect at least some form of hazing by Olathe, a recent conference bully.

Bayfield won back-to-back league titles and produced a combined 21-3 record over the past two seasons. But the Wolverines will look to replace Colt Walker and Aaron Velasquez, a quarterback and running back tandem that combined for almost 3,000 rushing yards last season. Velasquez led all 2A rushers in the state last season with 1,824 yards.

“Every coach is probably picking Bayfield to win the league. If not, they’re dumb,” Corn said. “They had a great run last year and are returning a lot of the same guys.

“For second, I’d probably pick Grand Valley for the same reasons, but the battle for third will be a fight. Gunnison will be good. Mike Sirko will have has guys ready over in Aspen. The 2A league statewide is going to be incredibly deep this year. It’s one of the best years we’ve seen.”

Corn, of course, picked Olathe to finish last in the conference.


“Rebuilding,” Corn wrote in an email, “enough said.”

When told of Corn’s last-place prediction, Basalt coach Carl Frierichs, said: “He said that one year, and they won the state championship.”

Olathe lost many starters, but the Pirates have tradition on their side.

“I really think Olathe is the favorite,” Aspen coach Mike Sirko said. “They won two state titles in the last four years, and they lost a lot, but Olathe just seems. ... they’ve got a good weights program. They’re excited about football. When you’re that successful you get those fringe kids to come out and make a difference, whereas we have so many other sports.”

Aspen, having qualified for the state playoffs the past five seasons, should challenge under Sirko’s veteran coaching, but to what extent?

“You have to have special kids to stick with this old man,” Sirko said, “and listen to this old guy babble.”

Sirko thinks three teams from the conference could qualify for the state playoffs. “Because it’s such a large league,” Sirko said.

The larger conference has led to longer drives, such as Aspen’s expected seven-hour drive to Bayfield on Sept. 21.

Olathe, on the other hand, will host Bayfield on Oct. 19 in what could determine the league title.

“No matter what they say,” Bayfield coach Mike Heide said about Olathe, “anybody that’s won championships and has a great coach with Coach Corn is gonna be good.”

Gunnison coach Bob Howard does not see a clear-cut favorite in the league, citing Basalt’s talented backfield and Aspen’s size and ability to reload quality players.

Pagosa Springs coach Olin Garrison picked his team as middle-of-the-pack.

“It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing right now,” Garrison said. “We’ll see how we develop.”

Olathe went undefeated in the league at 7-0 last season.

“Bayfield and Olathe should be the favorites,” Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson said. “Bayfield because they have a lot of tradition and they just played for a state title. Olathe because they have won our league the past four or five years and they are always well-coached and play tough. I think we have the potential to compete for a league title.”


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