Running back Grasso leads the speedy Wildcats
In one year, Fruita Monument High School has the swagger back. Coach Sean Mulvey returns for his second year as head coach. There’s stability.
Almost the entire team reportedly showed up for summer weight-lifting sessions.
There’s the commitment.
If Fruita grabs a state playoff spot this season — it was one Class 5A opponent away from qualifying last season, win or lose — it might do so based primarily on its speed.
Jake Lynch steps in for his first season at quarterback in a spread offense. Fruita will often run between tackles or revert to the option with returning All-Southwestern Conference running back Vince Grasso.
And, of course, they’ll throw some with triple receivers split to one side and another isolated on the other side. But this isn’t your usual quarterback in a spread offense.
“And he doesn’t have that quarterback mentality,” Mulvey said. “I mean, he has just a toughness about him. ... Since he was a freshman he takes a big hit and pops right back up and gets going.”
Mulvey needs Lynch to protect the ball and make good decisions, so defenses can’t focus on the stout, speedy Grasso, who has put on some weight since last season ended. And from a glance, it was lean muscle.
“He had a phenomenal offseason,” Mulvey said. “He had a great season in track, he’s stronger, quicker, he looks real good.”
Tale of the tape for Grasso: 5-foot-7, 175 pounds; 1,423 yards rushing, 17 touchdowns, 7.3 average; 11.68-second 100-yard dash last spring; 23.54 seconds in the 200 dash.
“It’s my senior year, I’m excited, and I just want to get out there and play football again,” Grasso said. “I like running the ball out of the spread. It gives you a lot of chances to read the defense and make a cut.”
Tackle Ty Schroeder, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound senior, loves it, too.
“I really like when he gets in open field and you’re out there with him, and he makes people make a decision on where they want to go and you can hit them hard,” Schroeder said.
Fruita will be replacing eight starters from its defense, including leading tackler Tyler Church and safety Cody Daniels, who signed to play football at Colorado Mesa University.
Also gone is starting quarterback Zach Thorpe, a CMU signee who battled injuries, yet still ran for 888 yards.
“It’s always hard to replace guys, and you miss them big time,” Schroeder said, “but you’ve got to come back ... “
And so much of Fruita’s success will come down to Lynch. He’s just having fun running the spread offense.
“There’s a lot of action, and it’s real high-paced,” Lynch said. “You get to make a lot of decisions. And a lot of it relies on having a good running back and fast receivers. You’ve really got to make quick decisions.”
Looming on the schedule, of course, is rival Grand Junction (Sept. 28 at Stocker Stadium), but Mulvey is focused on the Wildcats’ first game at 11 a.m. Saturday against Adams City at Stocker Stadium.
Then Fruita plays five days later, on Aug. 30, against Douglas County in Castle Rock.
“(Grand Junction) is six weeks down the road,” Mulvey said. “We’re the only team in the state I think that has two games in August. We’ll have two games before most teams have one. We get a little extra time off (after that), but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Fruita seems excited to simply have a head coach returning.
“(Mulvey) is high energy; he brings a positive attitude to the team,” Lynch said.
“He relates to us real well,” Grasso added, “because he’s younger.”
Conversely, Mulvey believes in his players’ ability to challenge for a league title.
“I think we have a chance to be competitive and win every game we’re in — our kids are real tough,” Mulvey said. “They work hard; they’ve got a lot of resiliency. We’re not worried about how anybody is looking at us. We come out and work to get better every day and be in a position to challenge anybody we play and win any game we’re in. That’s all you can ask for.”