Sports: Prep Notebook November 05, 2008
For Grand Junction it was a year full of ups and downs.
When first-year coach Robbie Owens took over in May, he knew he had to replace a quarterback, running back, linemen and plenty of defensive players.
Added to that, it was Grand Junction’s first year in 5A, stacking the chips against the young Tigers.
Out of the gates, Grand Junction got blitzed by three teams (Arvada West, Pomona, Highlands Ranch), who all have made the playoffs with at least a No. 16 seed.
The Tigers eventually turned it around, defeating Skyline and Durango and nearly taking down valley rivals Fruita Monument and Central. And while the Tigers didn’t qualify for the 5A playoffs, they still made the most out of their non-qualifer game, defeating Palmer 42-22 in convincing fashion.
“The kids bought into the system and we will change a little bit of what we do to match our personnel,” Owens said. “But I think the one thing I learned is our young guys are going to be very good.”
One of the young guys specifically is freshman quarterback Sean Rubalcaba. The talented youngster took the reins of the Grand Junction offense and led the Tigers with 920 yards passing and 14 touchdown passes.
“You look at Rubalcaba and the warrior he is,” Owens said. “He has been hurt since the Cherry Creek game and I think he earned a lot of respect from his teammates.”
While the Tigers are in good hands for the future, the seniors like who are departing like safety Tyler Palmer have left their mark on the program.
Palmer looks to continue playing at the next level and currently has options.
“Right now a lot of the RMAC schools but still the Ivy Leagues and Navy and Air Force,” Palmer said. “I have to figure the college stuff, it is tough to say right now, but I will have it figured out in February.”
A bye week is a break. A time to recover both physically and emotionally.
Well for 9-1 Palisade, that really wasn’t the case. The Bulldogs spent the previous week of practice with the same approach they had all season.
“It was probably our toughest week of practice all year,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “We got after it and really pushed them.”
Arledge added the team responded with a strong week of practice even though the Bulldogs didn’t have a game this past weekend.
While the Bulldogs did keep the intensity up during the week of, they also used it to get healthy heading into the playoffs.
“We are healthy as we can be right now,” Arledge said. “Now we can start our stretch in the playoffs.”
The Bulldogs earned a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, but their first-round opponent is no walkover. Palisade faces 9-1 D’Evelyn on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Stocker Stadium.
“They are a tough team to play and they know how to win,” Arledge said.
In Central’s 49-7 loss to Chaparral in the first round of the playoffs, it was two bad quarters that cost the Warriors the game.
The Warriors trailed 7-0 after the first quarter but 21 point second and third quarters ended up being the demise for Central.
“At the end of the first its 7-0 and we arn’t playing too badly,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “Things got away from us in the second. They were a big physical team and hopefully our young kids learn from that.”
The loss stings, but it doesn’t take away from a solid year by the Warriors in which they defeated Fruita
Monument and Grand Junction and finished with five wins in their first year in 5A. The success had a lot to do with the inspired performances all season from seniors such as Clay Kame, Blaine Jackson, Nolan Curtis, Ross McGee, Charlie Payton and Trent Harris.
The Warriors will lose 21 seniors from this year’s team.
“I have seen that group progress and they got better all the time,” McGee said. “They were committed to making themselves better athletes. They did a great job at practice and made my job very fun.”
Central will have holes to fill next season, but do retain quarterback Holden Reed. McGee said the experience of playing a top 10 team like Chaparral gives the underclassmen a good perspective of what it will take to compete.
“Playing that caliber of team we see what we are going to do to compete,” McGee said. “We arn’t blessed with big physical kids so we have to do a good job of getting faster and getting bigger. You can’t be a player that shows up in August and plays until November. It really takes commitment.”
When taking on the No. 5 team in the state, Fruita Monument knew it had to play a perfect game.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats played hard, but were far from perfect.
Fruita lost 49-14 to Columbine last Saturday and allowed 498 yards of total offense to the Rebels, as well as committed three costly turnovers.
“When you are a running team you have to be error free,” Fruita Monument coach Bill Moore said. “You can’t have penalties and you can’t turn the ball over.”
Penalties weren’t the problem for Fruita, but Columbine’s aggressive start resulted in a 35-0 halftime deficit.
The Wildcats showed character, as they responded with two second-half touchdowns, as quarterback Brett Nankervis connected with Tyler Daniels for a 78-yard touchdown and AJ Meil scored on a 1-yard run.
Nankervis and Meil make up a group of solid exiting seniors, including lineman AJ Hand, running backs Mike Campbell and Sean Hillman as well as receiver Scott Miller.
“You have to give your all or that’s it,” Campbell said before the Columbine game. “If you are a senior it could be your last game ever.”