KMTS FOOTBALL: Glenwood Ground Game Leads to Victory in League Opener

GYPSUM (10/11/19) – Before the Glenwood Demons broke their season-long five-game losing streak with a 24-12 win at Eagle Valley in the teams’ Western Slope League opener, coach Pat Engle shared in a pre-game interview that he and his staff were “not pleased with our offensive output,” the Demons being outscored 166-39 in those five losses, “but it’s fixable, and one of our themes this week is 1-and-0,” meaning a fresh start in the first league game was their goal.

Having senior running backs Elliott Walz and Tucker Porter each go over the 100-yard mark for the first time in their varsity careers went a long way toward fixing what ailed the offense. “We just followed those big boys up front,” Walz said of his team’s season-high 353-yards gained on the ground and 21 first downs.

Scoreless after one-quarter and ahead just 10-0 at the half, and 16-6 early in the fourth, seven Demon fumbles – three were lost, and a pick-six interception return for a touchdown by the Devils (2-4, 0-1 WSL) insured the breakthrough would not be easy. “It was a pretty sloppy game,” Engle said, “but our defense played extremely well.”

Specifically, Glenwood stopped Eagle Valley six times on fourth down, including five times at or inside the Demon 34-yard line. The Devils’ sophomore quarterback Will Geiman completed 19-of-34 passes for 167 yards, connecting with 6-4, 250-pound George Smirl five times in the first half. But each time the Devils got into Demon territory until a final scoring drive in the last minute of the game, the defense was up to the challenge. Geiman completed just 5-of-16 for 25 yards in those five opportunities.

After Walz ripped through the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to cap a five-play, 75-yard Demon drive for the first score of the game 1:39 into the second quarter, Eagle Valley put together a 13-play, 3-first down drive of its own with Geiman completing four straight passes to Smirl and Matt Lee. The Demon-D stiffened and on 4th-and-9 at Glenwood’s 34, Sam Fitzwilliams chased Geiman past midfield before bringing him down for an 18-yard sack .

Former Demon quarterback Dylan Albright, shifted to slot back after sophomore Evan Heyl took over, ran for two first downs and Thorin Melby, subbing for the injured Walz picked up another before an incompletion and one of the Demons’ seven fumbles stalled the drive. However, Tyler Thomas cashed in a 27-yard field goal at 2:18 for the 10-0 lead.

A completion to Smirl and a pass interference call moved Eagle to the Glenwood 39, and a scramble and QB sneak by Geiman gave the Devils a first at the 27 with 30 seconds left before halftime. Among four straight incomplete passes, JP Simpson tipped away a pass intended for the much taller Smirl, helping protect the ten-point lead. After the game, Engle said, “We knew they threw the ball well,” and singled out coaches Justin Barham and Sean Matheson for their work with the defensive backs, who “didn’t give up any big plays.”

The defense was tested again when Glenwood fumbled the second-half kickoff, giving Eagle the ball at the Demon 28. Facing 4th-and-7 at the 25, Elo Garcia and Tucker Porter dragged down Smirl two yards short of the first down, thwarting yet another scoring chance. Smirl was injured on the play and would not catch another pass the rest of the game.

The Demon offense rewarded the defensive stand by driving 80-yards in ten plays – all on the ground, including a 19-yard burst by Porter, who concluded the 4:39 possession with a TD from the ten, giving Glenwood a 16-0 lead with 5:41 left in the third.

A double penalty, which included a personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct moved Eagle from its own 27 to the Demon 38, but Simpson broke up yet another fourth-down pass attempt to Smirl.

Early in the fourth quarter, Heyl attempted his only second-half pass, but it was intercepted by Branden Vigil who returned it 46 yards for Eagle’s first score. A two-point pass conversion attempt failed, leaving the Devils trailing 16-6 with 10:10 remaining in the game.

Once again, the offense answered, putting together a 17-play, nearly nine-minute drive that featured five first downs, including a 19-yard burst by Walz that overcame a holding penalty. Trainer Marni Barton revealed after the game that Walz had injured his elbow early in the second quarter but came back to gain 96 of his career-high 132 yards in the last half.

Porter, who scored his second touchdown of the game to seal the outcome with 1:22 to go, would also set a career rushing mark with 129 yards, though, as Engle pointed out, “Last year he was our left tackle.”

Albright, who conceded switching from QB to slot back was “a big change, but it was best for the team,” added a career-best 89 yards rushing.

Referencing his team’s 87-yards in penalties and four turnovers, and “what happens when we don’t play well,” said “We’ve got to clean that up” when hosting tenth-ranked Palisade (3-3, 1-0), next Friday. Given the Demons’ (1-5, 1-0) success in reaching their goals in their league debut, the challenge might be just what’s needed to break a four-year losing streak against the Bulldogs.

Listen to the game here: