Gridiron tradition returns to Carbondale as Roaring Fork makes home debut in loss

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Roaring Fork football returned to Carbondale on Saturday, the school’s first home games since 2017.

Pay no attention to the scoreboard as the final whistle blew on a 47-6 blowout.

Forget for just a moment that the coronavirus upended high school sports and a lot of the community traditions this past year.

None of that mattered, given the fact that Saturday was a really big day for the Roaring Fork High School football program.

The Rams returned to the home field in Carbondale to play at the varsity level for the first time since the fall of 2017.

Though falling in the lop-sided affair to the Manitou Springs Mustangs, the Rams players and a modest crowd of student and family supporters soaked it all in on a warm, April afternoon in Carbondale.

After a winless 2017 campaign and with a dwindling number of experienced players, Roaring Fork decided to suspend its varsity program and rebuild the team through the middle school and junior varsity ranks for two seasons.

Rams junior David Good, a wide receiver on the team, was given the honor of singing the National Anthem before the start of the game.

“It meant a lot to me that coach (Eric Bollock) let me sing the National Anthem for the first varsity game here in a few years,” said Good, whose emotional rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” had some of the Rams players and faithful fans shedding tears.

“This is such a big milestone for this program, and I wanted to be a big part of it,” he said. “It could have gone better on the field, but everyone fought hard.”

Mike Metheney was in the stands watching his sons, junior TJ Metheney and sophomore Ryan Metheney, and the rest of the Rams play.

“I’m thrilled to see it. I think it’s just great,” Metheney said.

“It has been a little difficult with COVID, and all those impacts have made it hard,” he said of the revamped football seasons this school year that saw some Colorado high school play in the fall and others, including all of the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County schools, playing a modified schedule this spring.

“But, they’re all out there working hard, and the kids are happy to be a part of it,” Metheney said.

Coach Bollock’s parents, Bill and Kathy Bollock, were also in the stands cheering on their son and grandson, freshman Max Bollock, who is the Rams starting quarterback and plays strong safety on defense.

“They’re young, with only three seniors, and they had to play their first couple of games without some starters,” Bill Bollock said. “They’re doing OK. … They’ll get better.”

Added Kathy Bollock, “I think it’s awesome. It’s been a long, hard comeback. They’ve been fighting hard to get a team together from the littles up, and we’re just starting to see the results of that.

“There’s a lot more football to play, and these kids are going to grow up and be better and better,” she said.

Coach Bollock is a Roaring Fork alumnus (1994), in keeping with a RFHS tradition of inviting former students back to coach sports. The Rams’ last state football championship was in 1985 — the third in 12 years for Roaring Fork, which also had state titles in 1973 and 1977. That was followed by a couple of deep runs in the state playoffs in the mid-2000s.

“This was a good moment for Roaring Fork,” Bollock said. “The kids are excited, and varsity football’s back. We had a few mistakes that young kids tend to make. But we’re learning and getting better every week. We’re excited to be here, and for the fans to have Carbondale football again.”

Rams defensive coordinator Cody Burkholder played for rival Basalt back in the day, but said he’s proud of the Rams’ progress so far.

“We keep fighting, and we don’t give up,” he said. “We’ve got a long ways to go, but it all starts with heart and fight, and they have that.

“It’s about more than just football. It’s teaching them life stuff, and to never give up, and to try your hardest. …It’s all forward from here, we’re not taking any steps backward.”

The Roaring Fork student body is also glad to see Rams varsity football back.

“I think it’s really good that the program is starting back up, and it’s good for the school and the players,” sophomore Mia Shafer said.

Said fellow sophomore Katie Grijalva, “I think it’s going to bring a lot more school spirit, and hopefully the program keeps going. It’s a lot of fun.”

Barraza scores early

The Rams got off to a rough start on the field, giving up a long touchdown reception on the opening play to 6-foot-7 Manitou Springs senior Joah Armour.

Roaring Fork hung tough, though, and just a short time later sophomore running back Oscar Barraza set up his own touchdown on a breakaway run from midfield to inside the 1-yard line. Barraza got the handoff again and went in for the TD on the next play, but the Rams’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Rams were still in it after the first period, down just 14-6. But the Mustangs proved the more experienced team with efficient offense and a stout defense to pull away early, building a 35-6 lead over Roaring Fork at halftime.

Roaring Fork falls to 0-3 on the season, and will make the short trip next Friday night to play Grand Valley High School in Parachute. Game time is 7 p.m.