Things are going to look different when the Gunnison High School (GHS) football team takes the field this season, but also a bit like the old days.
After a two-year hiatus from playing at the varsity level, primarily due to lack of participants, this year’s squad boasts more than 30 players and will compete in the 1A Western Slope League. They’ll also host their home games in Mountaineer Bowl this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions and a better ability to control attendance (capped at 250 people) at that closed-in facility.
GHS kicks off their season at home this Friday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m., facing Florence High School.
“Admission will be by ticket only, but those tickets will not be for sale to the public,” said Head Coach and District Athletic Director Jarrod Hinton. “We started by sending a certain number of tickets to our opponents, that they will distribute to their players’ families, primarily, coaching staff and administration. We will do the same for our players, coaching staff, administration as well as cheer and band parents for the games they participate in. That will get us to our limit.”
While that means there will be no student section or many Cowboy fans at the games, there is still a way to watch every GHS home game.
“We are working with Western Colorado University to stream the games online,” said Hinton. “We created a YouTube live channel and they are going to help us get it going and we should have it for our first game.”
A link taking fans to the web page where they can watch the game will be shared with the community prior to the start of games. Additionally, fans can also listen to a live broadcast on local radio, 98.3 The Edge.
Uncertainty results in challenges
Originally, state leaders planned to delay the prep football season to the spring as a COVID-19 precaution. It was exciting for football players and fans when the Colorado High School Activities Association recently announced football could be played this fall.
However, it wasn’t easy for the Cowboys’ coaching staff to get ready for a season, after thinking they weren’t going to have one.
“The whole timeline feels crunched,” said Hinton. “The actual days of practice from formal start to first competition is not different. However, normally we would have a scrimmage at the end of the second week. So we missed that measuring stick of seeing where we are at.
“We were ready at first then we put some stuff away and had to get it all back out and just go,” he continued. “It feels tighter timeline wise, even though maybe it’s not that much tighter.”
Key players return
Despite things feeling tighter, GHS will return key players on both sides of the ball that will help the fact that the Cowboys didn't have a preseason.
Senior Nico Marchitelli is back for his third year as starting quarterback. Last season he threw for 919 yards, (12.1 average per completion) and five passing touchdowns (TD’s), while also rushing for 453 yards and 10 rushing TD’s.
Marchitelli’s three top receiving weapons from last season also return this season. Seniors Spencer Dickey and Matt Solanik, along with junior Sam Buckhanan accounted for 673 yards and four TD’s combined last season.
Buckhanan and Braydon Duncan will also be ones to look out for at running back, coming off a season where they scored five rushing TDs.
Dickey, Solanik, Buckhanan, and Duncan are also among the key players on the defensive side of the ball. Another impact player is newcomer to the team Bogdan Maples, who coach Hinton noted is going to be noticed on tape and will make opposing teams have a plan for him.
Speedster Gabi Marmolejo is back playing football this year, due to the fact that the boys’ soccer season was postponed. Sophomores who made an impact last year as freshmen include Petyon Frias, Justus Williams, Ty Taramarcaz and Michael Riser.
Fourteen freshmen are sporting the black and red this season, which will include a limited junior varsity schedule.
GHS will have three home varsity games this season.
(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com.)