Palisade, Rifle lead race for 3A Western Slope Conference title

Palisade’s Caden Woods, who will play defensive end and fullback this season, takes a handoff during practice at the high school.



QUICKREAD

About Coal Ridge

Head coach: Kyle Sager, first year

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

Assistant coaches: Brandon Forster, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks; Jesse Burris, offensive line; Dan Larsen, wide receivers; Justin Hale, running backs; Clay Langston, defensive backs; Ty Sfat, defensive line.

Returning starters: ILB Cole Zywisec, 5-10, 210, sr.; RB Chris Contreras, 5-10, 190, jr.; DL/OL Austin Reed, 6-3, 260, sr.; LB Alex Sanchez, 6-2, 225, sr.; OLB Jordan Burris, 5-10, 190, sr.

Base offense: I formation

Base defense: 3-4

Key newcomers: OLB Michael Shaw, 5-8, 180, sr.; QB Gunnar Pagni, 5-10,  170, sr.; QB Brooks Pressler, 5-10, 180, so.

Team outlook: Sager has been stressing that his players need to be hungry in his first season as Coal Ridge’s coach since coming from Surprise, Ariz., where he was a high school football coach for 10 seasons. Hungry because Coal Ridge, which has had a football team since the school opened in 2005, has a lot of “firsts” to attain: beat Rifle at home; beat Olathe; go undefeated in conference. Coal Ridge lost several seniors from last season, but has many sophomores and juniors who will gain experience necessary to take a crack at some of those goals. Coal Ridge has a battle at quarterback between Gunnar Pagni and Brooks Pressler. Sager said the Titans’ scrimmage should determine who the starter will be.

Coach Sager says: “I’ve been stressing to them that I can only go so far on the field and that they’re the ones that play between the sidelines. This is their season. We tell them to be a hungry team and stand up for that they believe in. If they believe they can do it, then fight because you know you can do it.”

About Eagle Valley

Head coach: John Ramunno, 31st season.

2011 record: 1-6 conference, 1-8 overall.

2011 JV record: 6-2.

Assistant coaches: Pat Gabriel, tight ends and defensive backs; Ralph Carlson, running backs and defensive ends; Ron Beard, offensive line and linebackers; Kylan Kottenstette, quarterbacks and defensive backs.

Returning starters: T Andy Armstrong, 6-5, 225, sr., all-conference first team; DE Ayren Hart, 6-4, 220, sr., all-conference first team; RB Cole Neilson, 5-10, 165, sr.; QB Jordan Hudspeth, 6-0, 175, sr.; OL Joe Felix, 6-0, 210, jr.

Key newcomers: OL/LB Ty Lafambroise, 5-10, 225, sr., moved from Norwood.

Base offense: double wing.

Base defense: 4-3.

Team outlook: With several players coming back from last season, the Devils look to be a better team. They could have 18 seniors, Rammuno said, and their strength will be the offensive line, led by Laframbroise, who runs a 4.9-second 40-yard dash.

Coach Ramunno says: “It’s been a good summer with these guys lifting. It’s good to see that many linemen are lifting. Some years, I’ll come in and go, ‘All right, the quarterback’s in here.’

“This year I come in and six linemen have been here almost every night. We really need that in our league.”

 

ABOUT GLENWOOD SPRINGS

Head coach: Rocky Whitworth, eighth year.

2011 record: 4-3 conference, 5-5 overall.

Assistant coaches: Neal Golouva,  defensive coordinator/linebackers; Joe Luetke, defensive line; Steve Carter, offensive line; Eric Nieslanik, defensive backs; Mike West, defensive backs; Brian Chochon, wide receivers; Randy Whitley, outside linebackers.

Returning starters: QB Travis Lundin, 5-10, 160, jr.; OT/DE Logan Holmberg, 6-5, 230, sr., all-conference honorable mention; OT Collin Page, 6-2, 220, sr.;  WR Auston Tribble 5-8, 150, sr.; WR Kaiden Sorensen, 6-2, 170, sr.; RB Henry Hill, 5-10, 170, jr.; RB Derrick Chase, 6-0, 180, jr.; NT Jesus Salinas, 5-9, 200, sr.; OLB Alberto Ramirez, 6-2, 220, sr.; OLB Justin Barham, 6-3, 180, jr.; LB Garrett Lowe, 5-10, 220, jr.; DB Cody Fox, 5-10, 160, sr.; DB Chris Sara, 5-10, 160, jr.; WR/DB Cole Adams, 6-0, 160, jr.; WR/DB Grant Fegan, 5-1, 160, sr..

Key newcomers: OG Collin Langer, 6-2, 240, jr., move-in from South Dakota.

Base offense: Shotgun spread option.

Base defense: 3-4.

Team outlook: Whitworth said the Demons’ strength will be at linebacker, led by returning starters Alberto Ramirez, Justin Barham and Garrett Lowe in the 3-4. Offensively, Glenwood Springs likes to throw the ball from the shotgun spread offense and use multiple formations. Quarterback Travis Lundin started as a sophomore last season, completing 67 of 100 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception.

Coach Whitworth says: “Like most 3A teams, it’s all about staying healthy, and at our level, like 2A and 3A, you’re one sprained ankle away from being average.”

 

ABOUT MOFFAT COUNTY

Head coach: Kip Hafey, 11th season, 63-43.

2011 record: 3-4 conference, 3-7 overall.

2011 JV record: 3-3.

Assistant coaches: Lance Scranton, offensive coordinator, wide receivers and linebackers; Derek Duran, assistant offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and defensive backs; Jim Neton, special teams coordinator, wide receivers, linebackers; Ken Olinger, offensive and defensive lines; Ron Linsacum, running backs and defensive backs; Shane Hadley, offensive and defensive lines.

Returning starters: RB/DL Michael Samuelson, 6-0, 210, sr., all-conference; QB/FS Bubba Ivers, 6-1, 185, sr., all-conference honorable mention; OL/DL Tyler Hildebrandt, 6-2, 215, sr., all-conference honorable mention; OL/DL Zach Beauchamp, 5-10, 190, sr.; WR/LB Garrett Stewart, 5-9, 150, sr.; WR/DB Jacob Teeter, 5-9, 150, sr.; WR/LB Jarret Walt, 6-3, 190, sr.; RB/LB Josh Pritchard, 5-10, 170, sr.; LB Levi Ogden, 5-10, 175, sr.; OL/DL Dru Nielson, 5-11, 175, sr.

Base offense: Spread.

Base defense: 4-4.

Team outlook: Moffat County narrowly missed the 3A playoffs in 2009 and 2010. It has been a wing-T and power-T team for several years but will run the spread offense this season. Moffat County has only one player on its offensive line weighing more than 200 pounds, Hafey said, so it will spread its offense out in order to spread the defense and create natural lanes. Quarterback Bubba Ivers is a three-year starter.

Coach Hafey says: “We missed going to Class 2A by one student. Our enrollment is 600 and we needed 599 (as of October). It is what it is. Since I’ve been here we’ve had one kid move in and be a starter.”

 

ABOUT MONTEZUMA-CORTEZ

Head coach: Casey Coulter, first season.

Assistant coaches: Travis Greenlee, running backs, outside linebackers; Dana Galyon, wide receivers; Dusty DeBoer, defensive line; Mike Coulter, defensive coordinator.

2011 record: 0-6 2A Mountain League, 1-9 overall.

Returning starters: QB Tallon Ralstin, sr.; RB Trenton Gustafson, sr.

Base offense: Spread.

Base defense: 4-4.

Key newcomers: MLB Randy Haley, so.

Team outlook: The Panthers are in a new conference, but as first-year coach Casey Coulter told the Cortez Journal, football is football. The Panthers were decimated by inexperience and injuries last season, but they begin anew with Coulter, who has installed a new offense and defense and brought in his father, Mike, a former head coach at Cañon City High School, to coordinate the defense.

Coach Coulter says: “I can guarantee you: That Bayfield team last year would have went into that (3A Western Slope) league and won that league. Hands down. You’ve just got to play the game.”

2011 conference standings

League Overall

Rifle 7-0 11-1

Battle Mountain 6-1 9-2

Palisade 5-2 10-3

Glenwood Springs 4-3 5-5

Moffat County 3-4 3-7

Delta 2-5 4-6

Eagle Valley 1-6 1-8

Steamboat Springs 0-7 0-10

Note: Montezuma-Cortez is new to the conference.

2011 standinGS

Class 3A Western Slope Conference

LeftAlign.108RightAlign.156League Overall

Rifle 7-0 11-1

Battle Mountain 6-1 9-2

Palisade 5-2 10-3

Glenwood Springs 4-3 5-5

Moffat County 3-4 3-7

Delta 2-5 4-6

Eagle Valley 1-6 1-8

Steamboat Springs 0-7 0-10

Note: Montezuma-Cortez is new to the conference.



How tough is the Class 3A Western Slope Conference?

Darkhorses, it seems, have a shot at becoming state champions.

Last season, Palisade was third in the conference, then hit the playoffs and finished in the final four at state, losing to Silver Creek 55-37 in the semifinals.

Look for the conference champion, along with perhaps two other teams, to garner enough “power points” to qualify for the state playoffs again.

That said, Rifle appears to be the WSC favorite, returning 14 starters to a team that went undefeated in the conference. That includes running back Ryan Moeller, who led Colorado in all classifications in rushing yards with 2,469.

“He’s a special one,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said.

Ramunno also touted Palisade senior quarterback Luke McLean.

“I really like him. I saw him at a 7-on-7 football passing camp, and he seems like such a leader,” Ramunno said. “He killed us last year with bootleg stuff. It takes five guys to tackle him. He’s a block.”

Moffat County also has a strong quarterback, Bubba Ivers, who impressed Ramunno.

“It’s pretty rare you get a three-year starter at quarterback,” Ramunno said of Ivers. “I think he’s so versatile; he can throw and run — he runs the option well. I think that guy’s a good leader, too, for the Bulldogs.”

Another reason this conference could have a strong showing at state lies in the classification movements.

For one, the defending Class 3A state champion has moved on. Windsor defeated Rifle 36-15 in the state quarterfinals and went on to defeat Silver Creek 14-7 in the state championship.

Windsor is now in the Class 4A Northern Conference (and has a roster of 100 players listed on MaxPreps.com).

“And with so many of those Colorado Springs teams moving up, seems like eight of the top 10 teams from last year moved up to 4A,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “Only three stayed down, including Palisade and Rifle. Our league being as strong as it is, we should be very good in the playoffs.”

And there is respect within the conference.

Palisade coach John Arledge likes Rifle and Glenwood Springs — along with the Bulldogs, of course — to challenge for a conference championship.

“Damon (Wells) does a fine job preparing (Rifle),” Arledge said, “and us against them. As far as respect, I have the most respect for them. When you play them, you better be on your ‘A’ game. And I hope they feel the same as us.”

It seems they do.

“Palisade and Glenwood are always tough,” Wells said. ” Our league is very difficult from top to bottom.”

Rifle defeated Palisade 36-33 last season.

In the same matchup the prior four seasons, however, Palisade won all four by a combined score of 135-13.

Yet a new season unfolds, and Moffat County coach Kip Hafey thinks his own team, along with Palisade, Rifle and Glenwood Springs, will challenge for the playoffs.

And what of Delta, which returns lots of tall, skilled kids?

“Those kids always play hard,” Hafey said. “If you don’t show up to play Delta, they will beat you. They’ll make a run at the playoffs.”


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