The Salida Spartan football program is going to be an interesting team to watch for several story lines as they come into the 2019 season under Head Coach Matt Luttrell’s second season.
Last year, the Spartans rode a heavy senior class to a second round appearance in the playoffs, winning their first home football playoff game since 2006 when they beat Aspen behind a four touchdown game from Vince DeLeo. The run would end at the hands of the eventual state champion La Junta Tigers, but it was a historic season for Salida to say the least.
With historic season’s, there is usually a big senior class behind it and the same is true for the Spartans. Salida sent three athletes from the team to Fort Lewis, as DeLeo will be joined by Eli Smith and Holt Brashears in the blue and gold of the Skyhawks. Juan Doyle also moved on from the offensive and defensive lines with a scholarship for cheer at Tulsa and was being looked at by the Golden Hurricanes football team as well.
The team also will be losing the defensive talents of Ludvig Myren and Jordan Reed, who helped anchor a defense which only averaged 10 points against per game last season.
All in all, the Spartans will look to match nearly 3,000 yards rushing, over 4,000 yards of total offense and averaged nearly 30 points a game on the offensive side. A tall task, which looks even taller after the early practices this season.
Salida has seen small numbers this season, with less than 20 student athletes out to begin the season. Though the numbers are small, there are some big faces returning to the team that provide a good base to build off of. Every team starts with the offensive line, and the same goes for the Spartans, with Jesse Camp leading the way for the Spartans on both offense and defense in terms of size. The Spartans will rely on him to anchor what will be a very young offensive line and provide protection for fellow senior and returning starter Zayne Walker, who will be taking the quarterback duties for the Spartans this season after splitting time there with David Zwingers last season.
Walker will have some weapons to get the ball to, and after having shoulder surgery over the summer, looks good early in terms of strength in his throwing arm. Walker’s biggest test will come with being comfortable in the pocket and finding ways to buy time during the growing pains of the offensive line. The running back position has several names which could step in to replace Vince DeLeo, but the strong money seems to be on Ben Fuller early, as he comes in after gaining nearly 400 total yards last season as the third string RB and slot receiver.
Finally, we take a look at the schedule for Salida this season, which does not do them any favors for a team with limited numbers. Marquee match-ups this season include the opening game of the season against 3A Summit on the road, a trip to Delta where the Panthers will I’m sure have revenge for a one possession loss last season, and in-league road trips to Alamosa and Bayfield should be games the Spartans will have circled on their calendars. This year’s rivalry game with Buena Vista will hold some extra importance for the Spartans, but the key games for Salida will be in winning the match ups they are favored in with Manitou Springs, Cedaredge and Montezuma-Cortez.
The Inter-mountain League schedule will not be as difficult as last season’s imposed, with four of the five teams making the postseason field. Montezuma Cortez lost almost as many seniors as Salida, and will most likely be in the throws of a rebuild this year. Bayfield also saw a big graduation, but should be a contender for a league title once again, and Alamosa comes in with some talent, but a new head coach as well. The league favorite going into the season would have to be Pagosa Springs, with only a few positions to fill in a run based offense, and most of their line returning for the Pirates.
Caleb’s Prediction – This season, I expect the Spartans to be a competitive squad, but there will be rough patches along the way. I expect a third place finish in the Inter-mountain League and a 5-4 record sneaking the Spartans into the postseason with a low seed.