Demons lookin’ out for No. 1 | AspenTimes.com

Demons lookin’ out for No. 1

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Fans cheer as Glenwood kicks a field goal during Friday night's game against Steamboat. Glenwood, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A football in Colorado according to RockyPreps, beat Steamboat 25-20 and is 8-0 going into Friday's game with Moffat County. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” League titles, playoffs, undefeated seasons and state championships are things that have long gone unmentioned as far as Glenwood Springs High School football is concerned.

Until now, anyway.

Proudly boasting an 8-0 overall record, the 2007 Demons have brought such phrases back into Glenwood’s football vocabulary. But can they keep it up, or will the pressure of a big winning streak and the No. 1 ranking in RockyPreps Class 3A state poll trip these guys up?

Either way, they’ve already resuscitated a lifeless program that’s made the postseason just once in the last 16 seasons and is 10 years removed from a one-year benching of its varsity team.

Demons head coach Rocky Whitworth likens his team’s turnaround to a recent film, one he’s used to inspire his troops.

“A program we’ve been watching a lot lately is ‘We Are Marshall,'” said the fourth-year Glenwood coach. “They lost their program due to a devastating tragedy. We lost our program and did not play a varsity game for a whole season. We’re trying to bring our program out of the ashes.”

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A pile of ashes is a kind way of describing the state of the Demon program in recent years.

From 1991 to 2006, Glenwood posted an overall record of 39-111 and made the playoffs just once – in 2004. In 1997, the Demons didn’t have the numbers for a varsity squad and fielded just a junior varsity squad.

That, on the heels of an illustrious history that includes a pair of state championships (1978 and 1980).

This year’s youthful Glenwood team – running with a roster filled with juniors – has a chance to make a heck of a two-year run, and put to bed those years of futility.

And a football-loving community is responding. The stands are packed every Friday, much like they were in the program’s glory days.

“It’s really cool coming out to the field and seeing everybody in the stands,” senior receiver/ defensive back Alex McPherson said. “I’ve been here four years now, and I’ve never seen that many people coming to games.”

The Roaring Fork Valley is clearly buzzing about these Demons. Can they run the table? Can they hold the No. 1 ranking? Can they win a state championship?

Why not? Or so says Scott Bolitho, who quarterbacked the 1978 Glenwood team to a Class 2A state title.

“A lot of things are comparable (to the 1978 team),” he said. “Just the way the defense plays. It’s a swarming defense. They blow people up. Our defense did the same. That’s why I see some similarities between the two teams. The defense gives a lot of opportunities to win games.”

He’s right. The Demon defense is killer, surrendering just 11.6 points a game. And that number is slightly deceiving as Glenwood is typically up by such a wide margin at halftime that, invariably, a garbage-time score or two is given up.

Then there’s the Dakota Stonehouse-led offense, which is putting up an unreal 38.2 points a game. While they do most of their damage through the air with Stonehouse’s arm, the quarterback’s legs, as well as those of feature back Michael Hudson, wreak plenty of havoc in the ground game.

On top of his 1,667 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, Stonehouse has run for 358 and 13 scores on the ground. Hudson, meanwhile, is closing in on a 1,000-yard season with 737 yards.

“It’s a double threat,” Stonehouse said. “If the defense is focused on (Hudson), we can put it in the air. If the defense is back in zone and plays the pass, we give it to him and he does his thing.”

Much pressure accompanies a No. 1 ranking and unblemished record. The Demons have worn that target for two weeks now, and don’t seem a bit fazed, even though it’s very much uncharted territory for this team.

Being on top isn’t easy. Just ask legendary coach Don Miller, who reigned over the Demon program from 1964 to 1994 and compiled a 204-174-4 record with 17 state playoff appearances and the two state titles. He knows what it’s like to win as a favorite and as an underdog.

He learned quickly that rankings and never losing can be dangerous.

“If you’re on top, everybody’s gunning for you,” said the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “You don’t mean to, but sometimes you think you’re invincible.”

Fresh off a state title in which they caught the playoff field off guard, his 1979 Demons were the clear-cut favorites in the regular season and entering the playoffs. All the hype didn’t produce another state title.

A similar thing happened to the Demons after their 1980 state title. Tim LyBarger, who helped Glenwood to the crown as a sophomore, recalled the next seasons.

“I remember as a junior and a senior and we were ranked No. 1 and 2 and we fell short in the playoff semifinals both of those years,” he said. “Did we underachieve? Did the pressure get to us? I just know that we were on the radar screen.”

But credit Whitworth, who won a state championship with Roaring Fork back in 1977, for leveling his players’ heads and fostering an underdog mentality. Glenwood doesn’t have the state’s biggest players – the Demons aren’t even the biggest team on the Western Slope – but they do have speed, a finesse offense and a warrior spirit that starts at the top.

“He tells us stories about how to be a warrior,” Stonehouse noted. “Like the Spartans, 300. He tells us to keep fighting like the Spartans did. We have speed, strength and a very smart offensive line. We’re not the biggest people, but we work harder than any other team.”

Whitworth knows a thing or two about motivation, and creating a winning program. He’s the only coach since 1991 to make the playoffs with this Demon team, getting them to the postseason in 2004 and already locking up a playoff spot this year. He also turned around a Grandview High School program before coming to Glenwood, steering that team to the playoffs five times.

“It’s good knowing you’re a competitive football team, but there’s a fine line of expecting to win and wanting to win,” said the longtime coach, who seems to have successfully morphed the clubhouse culture. “If we can have that expectation of success – as we hope our players do – then we have to walk the walk every week.”

Whitworth and the Demons hope to walk the walk to a state championship. And employing a week-by-week, level-headed approach is the way they hope to do it.

“The playoffs are just like another season,” Whitworth said. “It’s like the fifth quarter. Anything can happen in this state an any level, any time.”

And that’s exactly why his Demons won’t overlook anybody.