It wasn’t the way seven Gunnison High seniors scripted ending their local football careers, but it was a pretty sweet ending nonetheless.
In a season of uncertainties and firsts, the Cowboys rolled with a few more curveballs leading up to Saturday’s season home finale and then bowled over the visiting Pirates from Olathe, 35-0.
The game couldn’t be played in the Mountaineer Bowl, where this season’s previous home games were held, due to Western’s recent cancellation of in-person events due to the pandemic. It couldn’t even be played in front of fans.
Seemingly undaunted, the Cowboys went back to their roots by playing on the humble (and tucked away) field where they rumbled as Gunnison Middle School Mustangs. But not before a cadre of parent volunteers and school officials pitched in to make the field even playable.
Friday night’s storm dropped a few inches of snow and Saturday’s gale-force wind gusts made conditions extra hard-packed. Parent John Solanik went to work with a plow-equipped ATV and about a dozen parents scraped the icy remnants off of hash marks, end lines and mid-field with shovels.
Kickers during pregame warm up found footballs travelling as far sideways as downfield. At times it was difficult to see from one side of the field to the other through a blanket of blowing snow.
The Cowboys knew their favored passing game might be somewhat grounded in the conditions. Turns out, they didn’t need it.
The GHS defense was a wall, stopping Olathe early, often and all day. Even when the Pirates took possession inside the Cowboys’ 10 from a turnover, the GHS defense stood firm, stopping Olathe on a fourth-and-goal.
But it took awhile for the GHS offense to get revved up, scoring only on their opening drive of the game on a Nico Marchitelli break-away run. At halftime, GHS held only a 7-0 lead.
But they scored on the opening drive of the second half, culminating in a short Marchitelli to Matthew Solanik pass play.
Marchitelli found the end zone two more times with his legs, while Gabi Marmolejo put the finishing touches on the scoreboard with a long scamper of his own.
It was the first time Marmolejo, normally a soccer player in the fall, got an offensive touch of the football since eighth grade.
Senior Gabe Perez had his best offensive output of the season, breaking off several big runs. Seniors Braydon Duncan and Ezra Hartzel were in on dozens of tackles. Spencer Dickey had a couple of receptions from his slot receiver position and an interception on defense.
The team finished its first season back at the varsity level with a 3-3 record in the Western Slope League.
While the regular season has concluded, the Cowboys are scheduled to travel to Del Norte this Friday for what amounts to a non league exhibition type game in this Covid-19 impacted season.