2013 Grand Valley high school signees

Austin Berk, Grand Junction, DE, 6-5, 230, Colorado State
James Diamanti, Grand Junction, DT, 6-4, 295, Wyoming
Blake Alexander, Montrose, LB/TE, 6-1, 190, Colorado Mesa
Conner Beard, Hotchkiss, TE/DE, 6-3, 230, Nebraska-Kearney
Jacobe Galley, Hotchkiss, RB, 6-1, 185, Colorado Mesa
Travis Hauger, Montrose, DE, 6-3, 263, Western State
Matt King, Grand Junction, LB/TE, 6-2, 205, Colorado Mines
Luke McLean, Palisade, QB/LB, 6-0, 180, Colorado Mesa
Johnny Pauli, Grand Junction, LB, 6-2, 215, CSU-Pueblo
Kyler Rose, Grand Junction, OL/DL, 6-4, 270, Colorado Mines
Noah Sanchez, Central, LB/FB, 5-10, 218, Western State
Josh Weller, Central, WR, 6-1, 175, Western State
Jacobe Galley, Hotchkiss, RB, 6-1, 185, Colorado Mesa
Matt King, Grand Junction, LB/TE, 6-2, 205, Colorado Mines
Luke McLean, Palisade, QB/LB, 6-0, 180, Colorado Mesa

What does future hold for Palisade basketball? Fire, for one.

TUSSLING WITH TAFEL

TUSSLING WITH TAFEL

Brian Tafel. Boys basketball coach at Palisade. Always on edge, face another shade of red from candy apple. He looks ready to jump on the court and rip out some defensive slides. But he’s in control. He demands success — does not ask for it. Already, after replacing a legend of a coach — Steve Phillips (who in 1990 guided the Central boys to a state championship) — Tafel’s Bulldogs have not slipped.

They bill it was the “Palisade Way.” Usually, that means being tough, not backing down, working hard.

It also means fire.

Just look at Palisade’s newest basketball coaches. They exemplify the Palisade Way, which is, of course, why they were hired.

And the future looks good for Palisade basketball. Their coaches are in their first year; both seem invested in their respective programs. Both are relatively successful.

The boys are 8-4 overall and 6-1 in the Class 4A Western Slope League, tied atop the league standings with Delta and Eagle Valley.

Tafel was a Bulldogs assistant last year.

Palisade athletic director Mike Krueger has not brought in outsiders. He has recruited his own kind, those familiar with the Way, from within.

Krueger also brought in Danielle Bagwell. In her opening game, the girls coach expected to beat the Grand Junction girls, who at the time were considered by some as the area’s team to beat. Palisade lost, 38-22.

The Bulldogs are 5-7 and 4-3 in the league and have a slew of upcoming talent, most notably the Brown sisters. Jenna, a junior, Casey, a sophomore and Ashlyn, the freshman, all start. An eighth grade Brown is on the way.

But Bagwell is a bit different from Tafel. Mixed in with her competitive fury is a touch of sense of humor, spiced here and there. Now and again, from the sideline, she’ll turn and whisper something to an assistant coach with a thin smile.

And the girls are playing for her; they have bought into the program enough to dive and take charges and run the floor to exhaustion.

Expect the basketball programs in the land of peaches to have a thriving future.

Moeller to make unofficial visit to University of Colorado

Finally, Ryan Moeller has received interest from the college he’s wanted to play football for since he was a kid.

The Rifle senior running back who rushed for 3,002 yards this fall said Tuesday he’s been contacted by new University of Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre and will make an unofficial visit to the school Jan. 18.

“I liked CU since I was a little guy,” Moeller said. “My mom (Debbieanne) went there. I’ve always liked CU; I like Boulder.”

Throughout the season in which Rifle eventually made it to the Class 3A state championship, Rifle head coach Damon Wells expressed disbelief that no one from Colorado’s football staff had contacted Moeller, who had been expressing interest in playing for the Buffaloes.

Moeller also has received interest from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Tulsa University, the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University. Rams coaches visited Moeller twice, including head coach Jim McElwain last month.

Colorado Mesa University is the only school that has offered Moeller a scholarship.

Moeller said he recently spoke to MacIntyre by phone, and the conversation was mostly about “getting to know each other.”

“He seems like a good guy,” Moeller said of MacIntyre. “He turned San Jose State around to be real successful, and I think he’d do the same here.”

Colorado hired MacIntyre on Dec. 10.

The Denver Post’s Ryan Casey reported that during MacIntyre’s introductory conference last week, MacIntyre said he would dedicate resources to in-state recruiting, and Colorado has commitments from six Colorado products for the class of 2013, the most in the program since 2008.

The Denver Post also released its top-20 recruits list Monday. Grand Junction defensive end/tight end Austin Berk, headed to Colorado State University, is No. 9, and teammate James Diamanti, an offensive and defensive lineman who is bound for Wyoming, was No. 17.

The list is headed by Ponderosa’s Chris Fox, an offensive lineman who intends to play at the University of Michigan.

Moeller, whose single-season rushing total was sixth all-time in the state, did not make the list.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Wells said. “But what are you going to do?”

Indoor track season at Florida State next for area standout

Hot. Muggy. Everybody faster than in high school. Nothing like tiny Cedaredge, Colo.

The practices were at first overwhelming.

Welcome to Tallahassee, Fla., Sierra Williams. The Cedaredge High School graduate who last spring set state-meet records and placed first in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and ran the anchor leg on the Bruins’ state-meet record 400 and 800 relays is now a freshman sprinting for Florida State University.

Forget winning the 60-meter dash. She is proving she can sprint with others in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Having prepared for the Seminoles’ first indoor meet at the Crimson Tide Indoor opener Jan. 12 in Birmingham, Ala., Williams is feeling even stronger and faster than when she won three state titles in one day last spring.

“It’s definitely a lot different than what I’m used to,” Williams said. “The caliber of athletes I run with every day is just incredible. And I mean, you really have to give it your all every day in practice just to keep up with them and prove you can be there.”

A year ago, Williams would drive more than an hour to train on a sometimes snowy Stocker Stadium track.

Now she trains in the South. Where the biggest threat to the track is a hurricane, or the elite college athletes sprinting alongside.

“It was overwhelming at first,” Williams said. “Definitely there were some days where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a struggle.’ But you make it through it and the sun comes up in the morning and you’re much better than you were before.”

GJ’s Berk, Diamanti to be honored

Two Division I-bound football players from Grand Junction High School will be honored at the high school on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

And DE/TE Austin Berk and OL/DL James Diamanti will be recognized and celebrated at 11 a.m. in the high school’s main gym for more than just their athletic talents.

Berk, who is headed to Colorado State University to play football, and Diamanti, who will play for the University of Wyoming,  are graduating early.

Both will graduate in December to attend college and play spring football at their respective colleges.

Video: Fruita Monument’s Fair bombs 67-yard field goal

Spencer Fair

The Fruita Monument High School senior smashed an NFL record field goal.

OK, OK …  Spencer Fair is not in the NFL, and his field goal was on a Fruita Monument practice field, but still…. 67 yards?

Click here to watch the reported 67-yard field goal Fair has posted on his Facebook account.

Believe it?

Either way, this is a 6-foot-7 kicker we’re talking about. Leverage, torque, all those physics terms that can be used to describe hitting something powerfully — Fair’s got it.

He’s got a leg and he knows how to use it. Fair drilled eight regular season field goals for the Wildcats, the longest being 49 yards. He also made 55 yarder against Central that was called back because of a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty.

After the season, Fair said MaxPreps ranked him as the top kicker in the state, and soon, he was flooded with emails from Division I and II schools interested in his kicking skills.

“But I also want to play basketball,” Fair said.

One possibility, Fair said, is a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference  school like Fort Lewis College, where he could play both.

We’ll see.

But with 67-yard-field-goal capabilities, experience at a Division I school could, under the right circumstances, give him a shot, albeit a long one, at the National Football League.

Three M’s of football — mistakes, momentum, misery — cost Grand Junction

The importance of mistakes and ensuing momentum in football (as in any sport, really), was on display in the first quarter of Grand Junction High’s football game at Montrose Friday night.

Who’s game was  it during  the opening drives? Grand Junction’s, it seemed.

On the first play, Grand Junction defensive lineman James Diamanti snapped into the backfield and rolled over Montrose standout running back Angelo Youngren for a 1-yard loss. Three plays and out.

Grand Junction ball. The Tigers take over at their own 43-yard line, and on the heels of a couple Austin Lewis runs, take it to the Indians’ 15.

This was the final moment the Tigers would be in control, the alpha dogs, coming back into the Southwestern Conference lead.

The mistake: Tigers quarterback Tyler Heinsma appeared to want to hand off to Lewis. Lewis, however, did not take the ball, and took a few stutter-steps forward to block.

The ball dropped to the turf.

And now the unseen, immeasurable effect of momentum: Montrose’s Grayson Burris scooped up the ball and went 85 untouched yards for a touchdown.

Ten seconds of change.

Montrose then attempted a squib kick that, unintentionally for the Indians, hit a Grand Junction player in the back and the ball was recovered by the Indians. Montrose of course scored and went up two touchdowns.

And that’s the misery, for G.J., which lost 41-21 to Montrose.

A couple mistakes, and even a randomly-angled kickoff, can make the game.

What do they say? Momentum is huge. The football is an odd-shaped object. (Like human heads, actually, and both notorious for doing the wrong thing.) Mistakes are costly. One hand-off, snap or play at a time.

“They” are pretty smart.

They must know their three M’s.

Fruita notches monumental win over Durango

The Monument of Fruita went monumental with its three-set win over No. 9 Durango last Saturday.

How monumental?

Fruita defeated Durango 3-0 in 2008, according to Maxpreps. But over the past 20 years, the wins for Fruita have been few.

Regardless, the win is a sign Fruita is leaping to another level. First, the junior-laden Wildcats mentally  rattled the five players from Durango who are listed at more than 5-foot-10. Joelle LeFevre, the ‘Cats libero, had 31 digs, breaking the spirit of Durango’s attackers, Richardson said.

“And they weren’t just little dinks and free balls against bad competition,” Richardson said of LeFevre’s spinning, stretching digs. “They were hard-driven balls against Durango, so that was a major factor. It kind of disheartens the other team when your libero keeps digging them up, and a lot of times we counter-attacked, hitting the ball back at them.”

Also, the Wildcats used Loryn Chiapuzio to digs balls and place accurate serves for aces.

Richardson said Chiapuzio repeatedly singled out a Durango player for the serves.

“That girl started cracking in the third game,” Richardson said.

Crackin’ like Humpty Dumpty — who said volleyball isn’t hardcore?

And on Saturday for Fruita, it was pretty monumental.

Griggs’ kickoff return TD worth more than six

The psychological slap an opponent takes from a kickoff return for a touchdown sometimes is worth more than six on the scoreboard.

On Friday night, Fruita Monument High School led Grand Junction, 10-7, in the second quarter at Stocker Stadium.

It was a low-scoring game. A game already rippling with emotions because of the rivalry, the G.J. homecoming aspect — all of that.

Then a simple kickoff.

Fruita’s Zach Griggs took the kickoff at the 8-yard line, near the left hash, and took off at what looked like 75-percent speed up the middle. He waited for the seam — to the left. When it opened, he gained speed.  The sideline set Griggs forward, and the senior wide receiver sprinted by his teammates and a Stocker Stadium tower-side section of Fruita fans erupting like a tropical storm over deep blue seas.

Fruita led, 20-7.

A draft of warmth  from the Fruita stands actually seemed to find the field, overriding the cool night. The play was that explosive.

For Fruita, the unwritten points from Griggs’ kickoff won this one. In about 13 seconds, the Wildcats speed was on display. The undersized boxer showed the knockout punch.

And it was another part of a nightmare for then-No. 8 Grand Junction, which, believe it or not, is deserving of the ranking. It just ran into a team that proved to be a tough matchup, one that carved out the perfect game plan and busted the big play.

Scorekeeper of the year? Palisade’s Haydon Harrell is on her way

A KEEPER SCOREKEEPER

Haydon Harrell isn’t just the scorekeeper for the Palisade High School soccer team.

She’s the manager, and she’s darn proud of it.

“She takes pride in it, which is nice,” Palisade head soccer coach Drake Jandreau said. “We depend on it. It’s not something you have a lot of, kids who like to be manager and stuff like that, but she does all the managerial stuff and does a great job stat-keeping.”

Harrell’s favorite part?

“I get to go to a game,” she said, “and get out of class to go watch a game.”

It’s all a highlight film for Harrell: During games, she plugs in her iPod and listens to top-40 music. One bud in her left ear, nothing but soccer sounds into her right. Plus, in her IB Diploma program, she gets “CAS” hours, which stands for creative, action and service.

Besides, she gets to learn the complicated and, to many in this country, mysterious game of soccer.

In her second year of scorekeeping,  she’s learned much about soccer.

What she knew when she began: “They aim at that goal,” she said, “and they can’t use their hands.”

And now?

“The positions — I sort of, kind of understand that a little more,” she said. “And the technical part of it and all the rules.”

Like many of us who are learning the game, she’s come a long ways.

The first lesson was learning what a “PK” is.

“Last year, they said they were doing, ‘PKs,’” she said. “And then they started doing push-ups. So I thought it was push-ups and kicks.”

But nominated by her coaches as a standout scorekeeper, Harrell is just that — a keeper.