Cowboys face Grand Junction JV Saturday

Ryan Wix (No. 36) rushed the punter (assistant coach Aaron Zielinske) during a drill in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s season — and home — opener against Grand Junction High School’s junior varsity.
Ryan Wix (No. 36) rushed the punter (assistant coach Aaron Zielinske) during a drill in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s season — and home — opener against Grand Junction High School’s junior varsity.

As a first-year coach, Jeff Palmer is still getting to know his team.

He’ll know a lot more come Saturday.
That’s when Meeker will host Grand Junction High School’s junior varsity in its season-opening football game. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Starbuck Stadium.
Palmer, who replaced Shane Phelan after he retired from coaching, got a better idea of what he has to work with after the Cowboys participated in a three-way controlled scrimmage last Friday against Grand Valley and Cedaredge.
The results were mixed. Meeker “lost” to Grand Valley three scores to two and to Cedaredge two scores to none. Both opponents are Class 2A schools; Meeker is 1A in football.
“We didn’t do too bad,” Palmer said. “We saw some good things. We saw some bad things. We saw a lot of stuff we need to work on.”
“We” includes Palmer and his coaching staff, most of who are, like him, new to the program. The only holdover from last season’s coaching staff is Brett Steinacher, who doubles as the school’s athletics director. New additions to the staff are a couple of Aarons, Aaron Zielinske and Aaron King.
“It’s not that I came in and fired everybody,” Palmer said. “They just all decided to leave at the same time.”
Palmer came from Nucla, where he coached eight-man football last season. He took over a losing program.
“They hadn’t won a game in the previous two seasons,” said Palmer, who guided Nucla to a 6-2 record during the regular season and a playoff berth.
But Palmer is glad to return to the 11-man game.
“I coached 11 man for 16 years, so this is not a real big deal,” Palmer said of the transition. “That’s what I’ve always played. That’s what I’ve always coached. It was fun to coach eight-man for one year, but (11 man) is nice because you have more players on the team. You have a little more depth.”
While Palmer and his Cowboy coaching staff, for the most part, are new, so are a lot of the players — at least in terms of playing time.
“A lot of seniors graduated from last year’s team,” Palmer said of the 2009 Cowboy squad, which finished with an 8-3 record and included six all-conference players. While Palmer and his staff have been getting acquainted with their players, they like what they see so far.
“We have some seniors and juniors with some talent, but they don’t have a lot of experience at the varsity level,” Palmer said. “That scrimmage (last Friday) was the first time getting significant playing time in a varsity game.”
But Palmer is pleased with the progress the team is making.
“I’m happy with the way the team is coming along,” he said. “The kids are getting a very good understanding of the offense and we can make adjustments on the fly and they pick them up.”
As far as the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, most of the positions have been decided.
“There are still a few positions up for grabs,” Palmer said prior to this week’s practices. “But for the most part, we have our starters.”
Trevor Matrisciano, a senior, will be the starting quarterback. He threw two touchdown passes in last Friday’s scrimmage. One to Jake Nieslanik and one to Cole Steiner, who are also seniors.
Another senior, Ryan Wix, will be a starter at offensive tackle, along with Justin Hardy, Ethan Overton and Collin Cochran, with Reno Roybal and Victor Villalpando vying for playing time on the offensive line.
“The center position is still up for grabs,” Palmer said.
Joining Matrisciano in the offensive backfield, Palmer said, “Toby Casias will most likely be the tailback, but we have a couple of other players we’re going to look at this year, particularly Cole Steiner, who, if he doesn’t start at tailback, will be one of our receivers, along with Jared Frantz.”
A newcomer, Alema Atoafa, has had an immediate impact, winning the starting fullback job and also being elected one of the team captains, joining Wix for that honor.
“He didn’t play football here last year after moving from San Diego,” Palmer said of Atoafa. “His teammates electing him one of the captains shows you his leadership ability.”
Rounding out the offensive starters will be Jake Nieslanik, who was all-conference last season and has the tight end position locked up.
“He’s a heckuva football player,” Palmer said of the senior. “I don’t see anybody taking that (position) away from him.”
Many of the starters on offense will play both ways.
“Just about everyone starting on offense is starting on defense,” Palmer said.
The only sophomore to earn a starting spot will be newcomer Luke Swiger, who moved here from Alaska. Another underclassman, freshman Kevin Eli, will see duty at receiver and safety, but other sophomores and freshmen will be counted on to contribute as well.
“We need some of those young kids to grow up in a hurry,” Palmer said.
Three of the Cowboys’ first four games will be on Saturdays, with the rest being played on Friday nights.
“That’s good, because early in the season, it will give us extra practice days,” Palmer said of the Saturday games. “With a young team, without a whole lot of varsity experience, it’s really good to have those extra days practice.’
The Cowboys will be tested right out of the gate, starting with Saturday’s opener.
“Grand Junction has 120 kids on their roster,” said Palmer, whose team has 30-some players. “Yeah, it’s their JV team, but they are going to be pretty good. It won’t be like playing our JV team. It’s going to be a good test. I keep telling our kids this is a big school. It won’t be a walk in the park. We have to be ready to play. I’m getting excited. I hope the team’s getting excited, too.”

By JEFF BURKHEADjeff@theheraldtimes.comMEEKER I As a first-year coach, Jeff Palmer is still getting to know his team.He’ll know a lot more come Saturday.That’s when Meeker will host Grand Junction High School’s junior varsity in its season-opening football game. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Starbuck Stadium.Palmer, who replaced Shane Phelan after he retired from coaching, got a better idea of what he has to work with after the Cowboys participated in a three-way controlled scrimmage last Friday against Grand Valley and Cedaredge.The results were mixed. Meeker “lost” to Grand Valley three scores to two and to Cedaredge two scores to none. Both opponents are Class 2A schools; Meeker is 1A in football.“We didn’t do too bad,” Palmer said. “We saw some good things. We saw some bad things. We saw a lot of stuff we need to work on.”“We” includes Palmer and his coaching staff, most of who are, like him, new to the program. The only holdover from last season’s coaching staff is Brett Steinacher, who doubles as the school’s athletics director. New additions to the staff are a couple of Aarons, Aaron Zielinske and Aaron King.“It’s not that I came in and fired everybody,” Palmer said. “They just all decided to leave at the same time.”Palmer came from Nucla, where he coached eight-man football last season. He took over a losing program.“They hadn’t won a game in the previous two seasons,” said Palmer, who guided Nucla to a 6-2 record during the regular season and a playoff berth.But Palmer is glad to return to the 11-man game.“I coached 11 man for 16 years, so this is not a real big deal,” Palmer said of the transition. “That’s what I’ve always played. That’s what I’ve always coached. It was fun to coach eight-man for one year, but (11 man) is nice because you have more players on the team. You have a little more depth.”While Palmer and his Cowboy coaching staff, for the most part, are new, so are a lot of the players — at least in terms of playing time.“A lot of seniors graduated from last year’s team,” Palmer said of the 2009 Cowboy squad, which finished with an 8-3 record and included six all-conference players. While Palmer and his staff have been getting acquainted with their players, they like what they see so far.“We have some seniors and juniors with some talent, but they don’t have a lot of experience at the varsity level,” Palmer said. “That scrimmage (last Friday) was the first time getting significant playing time in a varsity game.”But Palmer is pleased with the progress the team is making.“I’m happy with the way the team is coming along,” he said. “The kids are getting a very good understanding of the offense and we can make adjustments on the fly and they pick them up.”As far as the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, most of the positions have been decided.“There are still a few positions up for grabs,” Palmer said prior to this week’s practices. “But for the most part, we have our starters.”Trevor Matrisciano, a senior, will be the starting quarterback. He threw two touchdown passes in last Friday’s scrimmage. One to Jake Nieslanik and one to Cole Steiner, who are also seniors.Another senior, Ryan Wix, will be a starter at offensive tackle, along with Justin Hardy, Ethan Overton and Collin Cochran, with Reno Roybal and Victor Villalpando vying for playing time on the offensive line.“The center position is still up for grabs,” Palmer said.Joining Matrisciano in the offensive backfield, Palmer said, “Toby Casias will most likely be the tailback, but we have a couple of other players we’re going to look at this year, particularly Cole Steiner, who, if he doesn’t start at tailback, will be one of our receivers, along with Jared Frantz.”A newcomer, Alema Atoafa, has had an immediate impact, winning the starting fullback job and also being elected one of the team captains, joining Wix for that honor.“He didn’t play football here last year after moving from San Diego,” Palmer said of Atoafa. “His teammates electing him one of the captains shows you his leadership ability.”Rounding out the offensive starters will be Jake Nieslanik, who was all-conference last season and has the tight end position locked up.“He’s a heckuva football player,” Palmer said of the senior. “I don’t see anybody taking that (position) away from him.”Many of the starters on offense will play both ways.“Just about everyone starting on offense is starting on defense,” Palmer said.The only sophomore to earn a starting spot will be newcomer Luke Swiger, who moved here from Alaska. Another underclassman, freshman Kevin Eli, will see duty at receiver and safety, but other sophomores and freshmen will be counted on to contribute as well.“We need some of those young kids to grow up in a hurry,” Palmer said.Three of the Cowboys’ first four games will be on Saturdays, with the rest being played on Friday nights.“That’s good, because early in the season, it will give us extra practice days,” Palmer said of the Saturday games. “With a young team, without a whole lot of varsity experience, it’s really good to have those extra days practice.’The Cowboys will be tested right out of the gate, starting with Saturday’s opener.“Grand Junction has 120 kids on their roster,” said Palmer, whose team has 30-some players. “Yeah, it’s their JV team, but they are going to be pretty good. It won’t be like playing our JV team. It’s going to be a good test. I keep telling our kids this is a big school. It won’t be a walk in the park. We have to be ready to play. I’m getting excited. I hope the team’s getting excited, too.”