Times Staff Writer
GMS Football — Thirteen Gunnison Middle School (GMS) eighth grade football players toed the line Tuesday in what would be the final game of their middle school career.
There were ups and downs, but when the clock hit zero, the score favored GMS.
Kids smiled and laugh as they walked off the field in triumph, defeating Olathe 16-0 — and concluding what was a successful season.
“It was a lot of fun to coach them this year,” said coach Chris Kruthaupt. “They really cared for each other and were a team.”
Only time will tell if the youngsters are able to carry the success they experienced this season into the next level of play. During the 2018 season, the eight graders went 4-2 while pulling off an impressive 14-6 victory against Delta recently — a feat that hasn’t happened in awhile.
Despite the Mustangs losing two games, they battled through every game — with only 13 players on the roster and two lost near the end of the season with ankle injuries.
Out of those 13, 11 will look to join the Gunnison High School (GHS) football team next year, offering a variety of talent.
Chance Bailey, Ashtan Carroll, Cesar Flores and Kenny Flores will look to make their presence felt next year on the offensive line, adding size and depth that GHS needs. Possibly running behind the offensive line next season, Justice Williams, Peyton Frias and Brandon Funaro bring versatility.
One of Funaro’s goals in practice next season is to “lay out a senior.”
Mike Riser and Rocky Marchitelli hope to learn from Nico Marchitelli at quarterback, with the goal of eventually taking over the Cowboys’ offense in the future.
While Riser and Rocky Marchitelli might not see many snaps at quarterback in their freshman season, they may find themselves on the receiving end of the ball more frequently. Both can catch and have made key plays for the Mustangs this season as receivers.
Last but not least, Jake Butler will look to play tight end as well as make an impact on the defensive line. Butler may end up playing receiver or fullback; currently, GHS does not use a tight end in their offense.
Additionally, Funaro, Frias and Kaden Kula hope to join a strong linebacking core for the Cowboys next season.
While the majority of this year’s GMS squad is unsure where they will play defensively, they’re sure to become key additions on the defensive side of the ball.
If all 11 players join the Cowboys next year, it may increase the size of GHS’ roster to 31 — which could mean GHS moving back to a varsity schedule.
“I think they are going to do really well as Cowboys next year,” said Kruthaupt. “GHS’ football team will start to get back to old times.”
The Mustangs dominated Olathe all game long Tuesday.
After a long drive to start the game, Frias finished the drive for GMS with a 15-yard touchdown run. Williams scored in the next play on a two-point conversion, giving the Mustangs a 8-0 lead.
Olathe had an opportunity to score with 9.8 seconds left in first half. However, GMS’ defense put their foot down, maintaining the 8-0 lead going into the half.
Coming out of halftime, GMS’ offense continued the hot streak. Williams nearly scored on a 20-yard run. After being stopped on the one-yard line, Funaro finished off the drive on a fullback dive.
Williams once again scored on the two-point conversion, increasing GMS’ lead to 16-0.
The Mustangs were in the backfield all game, resulting in Olathe struggling to get anything going.
Prior to playing Olathe, GMS faced Salida this past Saturday. While the Mustangs fought hard all game, they fell 26-0. The seventh grade team also played Salida on Saturday, losing 20-0.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)