Lady Redskins Ready for
LA VETA- The Redskins completed one of their best seasons last year, a 20-2 season. Their bid for state fell short after an upset against Crested Butte at the regional tournament last spring. Today, the team is poised to come into their new league and be even more competitive. The Skins have three starters from last year returning for action. Seniors Shea Brgoch, Emily Moll and Shelby Morgan will be the team leaders hoping to show the valley schools they will not be taken for granted. Also returning from the varsity team are Christina Koutnik, Sami Whillhoite and Jennifer Miller, who returns after last year’s mid-season injury. Two newcomers to the team are freshman Jaycee Day and Aubru Konkel. Day transferred from Walsenburg and Konkel is the younger sister of Kendal Alvarez, a superstar last year. Coach Kent Smith feels these two young ladies may offer the varsity team some additional talent.
The Redskins will be facing new teams this season. The teams from Sargent, Sangre De Cristo and Center have some tall athletes. Who will be vying for rebounds and working the inside lanes. Smith plans to make very few changes this season and will create strategy on a game-by-game basis. The team will still employ a man-to-man defense and play the double-post offense, though because of the size of some of these teams, they could also run a single post.
The Redskins will face their toughest competition against Sangre and Sargent, who have dominated the league for years. “Every night will be a dogfight. We will have many close games,” Smith said. The Redskin’s single biggest asset this season will be their speed. They hope to drive the lanes and take the shot when the shot presents itself, but do not count out their ability to shoot from the outside. Last season, no single player averaged double-digit scoring, yet everyone scored. Smith says, “We will live and die on how well we shoot the ball. It may come down to how well we shoot free throws in the fourth quarter.”
Meet Coach Smith
LA VETA- Redskin basketball coach Kent Smith is a seasoned veteran of the hardwoods, having coached at various levels for over 40 years. He coached in Boulder and Highlands Ranch before retiring to the mountains of southern Colorado in 1998. While in the Denver area, he coached two Boulder teams to state championships. When Smith moved to the La Veta area, he was again called into service coaching fifth and sixth graders before accepting the head coaching spot five years ago. During that time he has amassed a 59-36 record with the Skins. He has coached in over 500 varsity games in his career and has won over 345 of them. Coach Smith’s dedication to the kids is beyond reproach, and his enthusiasm for teaching fundamental skills, teamwork and dedication will last long after the season ends.
WALSENBURG- The John Mall Panthers boys basketball team is in transition. Fourteen members began practice last Wednesday, learning a new system under Coach David Harriman. The squad is a younger, less experienced team this year but Harriman says, “they are hard working and quick learners.” The Cats lost nine seniors from last year’s team and two moved away. The only two starters remaining from last season are big man, Charlie Whitehead, and outside shooter, Stephen Rodriquez. These two will be the team leaders, sharing their experiences with their teammates. The 2008-09 Panther squad includes two juniors, five sophomores, six freshman and one transfer student who is in the O&E school and who will be CHSAA eligible in January once he transitions into the high school.
Harriman is teaching his players a faster paced game which includes a man-to-man defense, a trap and shoot and a five-out offense with screen and rolls. He is hoping to be more aggressive on the inside because with the size and power of Whitehead, the Panthers could dominate under the boards. In fact, as a freshman last year, Whitehead was at the top of the league in rebounds and blocked shots. The Cats hope their speed will be their dominating asset this season. For the six freshman playing, their successful experience on last season’s Grizzlies Junior High team will be put to the test. “High school ball,” according to Harriman, “is a faster paced game and it will take time to get up to speed.” He feels they will be ready.
Harriman is hoping to give the players motivation and self-respect. He feels team athletics gives a sense of purpose and encourages players to become better people. He would like to see the fans and citizens get behind the team this season. The Panthers are in one of the toughest 2A leagues and will face some competition. Perennial rivals Rye and Rocky Ford should give the Cats some tough competition and experience this year.
Assistant Coach Ken Berger has also been working hard with the kids.
WALSENBURG- Panther head basketball coach, David Harriman, loves his job. In fact, one might say, he loves kids. Harriman is in his forth year as head coach for the Cats and has brought an enthusiasm and excitement we have not seen for awhile. Basketball has been in his blood. His father was a coach, his siblings all played basketball and Dave himself was a standout player when he was at John Mall.
His love for sport does not stop with basketball. He also has been involved with the Panther football program for 23 out of the last 25 years. He, along with Assistant Coach Ken Berger, were instrumental in getting Warrior football to where it is today. Overall, one might say Harriman loves to see the youth in his community thrive and that drives his commitment to coaching.
New Look-New Coach for Redskins
LA VETA- The La Veta Redskin boys have a new coach, will face new teams and have a new style of play which should excite the basketball fans this season. First year coach, Wade Kreutzer has taken over as the Redskin’s leader, and he has already begun making changes which will help the Skins as they transition into division 2A basketball. The Redskins will be facing teams from the San Luis Valley who typically are bigger and have more students to draw from. La Veta will be the smallest school in 2A this year and the transition could be a challenge.
Helping overcome this obstacle are returning seniors Franklin Geiser, Travis Brownlee, Jon Christensen, and Chris Trenckmann. Also returning from last year’s varsity team are Trey Price, Chase Konkel, Shane Sanchez, Dakota Mason and Dalton Mason. According to Coach Kreutzer, the team will slow down the pace of the game by setting up the plays and allowing the big players to drive the lanes and work underneath. In the past, the Skins would run the fast break and score. Now, he said, “this type of offense will not work against some of these bigger, faster teams. They will give us more competition and we will have to work harder to score.” Kreutzer said every man on his varsity team is capable of being a starter, and he hopes to rotate his players on a game by game basis. He is emphasizing teamwork and working on the turnover problem which plagued his team last season. Another issue came from the free throw line. Kreutzer is making all the necessary adjustments to continue the success the Skins have enjoyed over the past several years.
The team has been working hard in the off-season which included a basketball camp held at Adams State last June. Coach indicated his team held their own against teams who normally compete in the 3A to 5A level, including schools from New Mexico. This gave the Redskins some of the experience they need to compete at the 2A level. Look for the Mason boys to be tough under the boards. These two should be able to outmuscle and box out any of the big players from over in the valley. Brownlee, Christensen and Trenckmann should be powerful shooters from anywhere on the court. Also, Kreutzer indicated anyone who handles the ball will be dangerous.
The Redskin’s first test of the new season happens December 4-6 at the Trinidad tournament to be played at T.S.J.C.
Meet Wade Kreutzer
LA VETA- Wade Kreutzer is used to competition. He also knows the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. He is an eighteen-year veteran of team calf roping on the pro rodeo circuit and has had his share of bumps, bruises and broken bones. He is able to say to his players, “you can take it.” Wade has spent all of his life in La Veta, with the exception of four years when he coached football at Peyton. He began coaching the fifth and sixth grade youth program four years ago. He is a lifelong Redskin supporter and when duty called, he stepped right into the coaching role for the boys’ team. He feels his toughest challenge as a new head coach is keeping the athletes focused. “When they lose, it is important not to lose focus but move on.” Wade is married to Sabrina and they make their home in La Veta.
WALSENBURG- The John Mall Lady Panthers are ready for another season under head coach, Ray Bustos. The Panthers are suiting up six seniors from last season’s team who will be the leaders of this new group of ladies. Senior Kristin David was the team’s leading scorer last season with over 13 points a game. An injury sidelined the star for one-third of her season; otherwise she could have earned all- conference and all-state honors. Other seniors retuning are Shari Duran, Jessica Navarro, Casandra Vigil, Desi Aguirre and Amanda Vargas. These ladies have already taken a leadership role by taking younger players “under their wing,” according to Bustos. “They are going out of their way to teach the younger members basic fundamentals.”
Returning to the Walsenburg area and joining the Panther team is Katie Monahan, a student who is living with family while her mother is away in Iraq serving her country. Katie stands at almost 6 feet tall, one of the tallest athletes Bustos has ever coached. Monahan played her last ball in junior high and has not stepped on the hardwood for three years. Bustos says she is a quick learner and is fitting right into the system and her team.
The Cats had a disappointing season last year, (4-15) and are looking forward to improving their mark. According to Bustos, “the girls are used to the system we installed last year and they also understand what is expected of them.” The team is hoping to utilize a half-court defense to slow down the tempo of the game. Their goal is to keep the game close by controlling the pace. Bustos feels confident that with some luck and good health, they will be competitive. Desi Aguirre and Shari Duran have come a long way Bustos stated. “As the season progresses, look for the Panthers to upset a few teams.”
If last Wednesday’s practice was a sign of events to come, then watch out for the Cats to amaze and dazzle the fans. Their discipline, camaraderie and caring for one another has already gelled them into champions as far as I am concerned. This is Walsenburg’s team, and it is important to come out and support these fine athletes who have made this commitment.
Also on the sidelines this season are assistant coaches Robert Duran and former John Mall superstar Veronica Pedraza .
WALSENBURG- After a visit with Coach Bustos, it is apparent he is a modest man who does not want any publicity to distract attention from his Lady Panther basketball team. Bustos however is sort of a basketball icon in Walsenburg. He played for the Panthers in the early 70s and was a member of the state-bound Walsenburg team in 1974. He has also coached basketball at all levels for almost 28 years, including recreational, club, junior high and high school levels. He was the head coach when Walsenburg won the 3A state basketball championship in 1994. Back then, when John Mall competed in the 3A class, they were the smallest school in the state, yet he took his athletes and made them champions. For Bustos, it’s all about the team and the skills he can teach his athletes to improve their lives. Ray and his wife Nancy make their home in Walsenburg.
Grapplers looking ahead
WALSENBURG- The John Mall wrestling team is looking forward to another exciting year after last year’s season which saw seven members earn a trip to the state championships, including state heavyweight champion, Brian Crespin. Now, the Panthers have five members from last year’s team returning and everyone is poised to excite the crowds once again.
The biggest obstacle facing the agile Cats is the number of wrestlers who are out this season. They will not have a full contingency of wrestlers to fill every weight class. According to Coach Vialpando, “We will have a tough time in the individual dual meets because we can’t meet every weight class, but individually, they should do well.” There are fourteen weight classes and at best the Panthers should fill 10, assuming everyone stays healthy. In tournaments though, coach feels the individual performances of his grapplers should propel the team as a whole to place high. Last season, the Cats placed among the top ten teams in most tournaments, including meets with 5A-3A schools. Wrestling is truly an individual sport where a 135-pound wrestler from Walsenburg can compete against a wrestler from Cherry Creek High School in Denver (5A) and have an equal chance of victory.
Heading up the Panther team this year are Brian Aguirre, who qualified for state last season, Waylon Cordova, Stewart Maldonado and Alex Sample who were all state qualifers. Also returning is Eric Figero who placed 4th at regionals last year. Stewart Pino, Tanner Valdez and Shane Ortibez will round out the team. This team has been preparing hard for the past few weeks for the La Junta Dual Tournament Dec. 6 and the Lewis Palmer Tournament Dec. 13. This tournament will be the first real test for the Cats as they will be pitted against 40 teams from the 5A ranks. The first opportunity to see these athletes at home will be the John Mall Tournament the following weekend.
Coach Vialpando indicated there are three or four solid wrestlers who should make the trip to state again. Also, if everyone stays healthy, the Panther contingency to Denver in the spring could be higher. Vialpando is looking to returning state qualifier, Clayton Archuletta, as the team leader. He feels Clayton could be John Mall’s newest state champion. “He is a hard worker and is dedicated to his work, but every member of this team has a great chance of placing high at the regional meets in March,” he added.
The Grappling Redskins
LA VETA- The Redskin wrestling machine is facing their biggest challenge of the season, and they have not even taken to the mats. Nine dedicated wrestlers began practice last week, but the team is five wrestlers short of filling all the weight classes. Five members from last year’s regional and state qualifying team opted to sit out the season. As a result, the Redskins will have trouble claiming team titles, but according to Coach Ron Ortivez, “the wrestlers we have this season are all capable of many individual honors.”
Returning this year are Ron Ortivez III, last season’s regional champion and state qualifier; Stephen Kimbrel, also a regional champ and state qualifier; Nick Northup, two-time state qualifier; James Smalley, state qualifier; Ryan Taggert and Jake Ferrari, who missed out at regional placement due to injury. Ortivez also is excited about newcomers, sophomore Chuck Rapp and freshmen Adam Ortivez and Austin Taggart. Adam Ortivez finished second at state championship for all the middle schools in the state. Coach says, “These three members are all stepping up their ability to learn.”
He also feels that every one on the team is capable of winning their weights. Most weights are already determined, but there are a few wrestlers still finding their correct weight. “We have a great core of wrestlers,” Ortivez said.
Ortivez assures us that his team will be ready Dec. 6 when they travel to Colorado Springs to participate in the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind Tournament. Last year his team finished fourth with several grapplers landing on the podium. This will be a test as they will face wrestlers from 2A-5A schools.
It is not too late to join the team. If you have the willingness to learn and the commitment, dedication and fortitude to compete, then there is always a spot on the team, but time is running out. Be a part of something. Be a part of Redskin wrestling.
Meet Coach Ortivez
LA VETA- Redskin wrestling coach, Ron Ortivez Jr. is in his twelfth season as the head wrestling coach. In his tenure, he has coached many regional champions and state qualifiers and has brought a sense of discipline to his athletes. Ron grew up in La Veta and was himself a state runner-up champion in the 140 lb. weight class. He has been coaching wrestling since his children were able to walk, working with the Pee Wee’s right up to the high school level. He is also active in the football program, working as assistant coach. Coaching is a big part of Ron’s life and he seems to thrive on the smiles he gets for the lessons he brings to his athletes. He is married to Dreama and has three children. The family makes their home in La Veta.
“My mother used to say, if you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Thumper, 1942 Disney’s Bambi
WALSENBURG- It has been brought to my attention that some of my reporting this past fall was hard and critical. I appreciate the comments. I strive to use these sports pages as a venue to build up the area athletes in the most positive way — win, lose or draw. It was never my intent to criticize in any way or use words that may appear to be discouraging. I report based on the information I receive and the sources that give me data. While I cannot be at every event, every weekend, I do my best to report fairly and honestly. If I offended any athlete or parent out there, I would like to apologize. If you have an opinion, please utilize the Letters to the Editor to express your concerns. We will take them seriously and, if necessary, adjust accordingly. After all, our athletes are a part of what make our schools and communities great.
Every John Mall High School football player was academically eligible all season. In fact, JMHS has the most stringent policy in the league and perhaps the state. They will not allow any F’s to be eligible, which is the CHSAA guideline.