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YEAR IN REVIEW: A wild 2013 for Fort Lupton's sports teams

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By Steve Smith

State playoff berths. A runner-up slot for a wrestler and a high jumper and a total of three wrestlers who placed at the state meet. There were letter-of-intent signings and plenty of problems with weather. Here’s our summary of the sports year that was.

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February

The 2011 wrestling season wasn’t kind to Fort Lupton’s D.J. Vurciaga.

He couldn’t compete because of a knee injury.

The 2012 wrestling campaign was much more to his liking. He finished second in the class 3A 170-pound state tournament.

“I’ve wrestled a couple of guys like him (Caleb Copeland of someplace) but no one as fundamentally sound. It was his third title. I gave him all I had,” Vurciaga said. “He’s a good wrestler. My head is held high. I had a hell of a season. I’m only a junior. I can come back again next year and get it.”

Two other Bluedevils placed at their weights. Jacob Ornelas finished third at 220 pounds. 

Dakota Macy was fourth among 126-pounders.

“I was smart and put in hard work,” Macy said after the quarterfinal win. “I knew what

was there and what wasn’t. I didn’t do stupid stuff. I kept my composure. I just went out there and wrestled.”

A total of seven Bluedevils earned spots in the state tournament.

It wasn’t just about state meets and playoffs this month. FLHS tabbed Brandon O’Field, an assistant football coach with the Bluedevils, added the title of head baseball coach.

“It gives me more access to those kids,” he said. “They know me a little bit. So I think it will be a smooth transition. I talked with some people and talked about their kids. It’s a good group of kids — respectful. They work hard.”

And it wouldn’t be February without some college letter signings.

Javis Arellano signed to play soccer at fort Hays (Kan.) State. 

“I thought it was better to stay close to home for a while,” he said. “I want to get better and improve. They have a good program. They are very young. The first years they’ve been in the program, they’ve gone to the playoffs.”

Zach Boyd chose to play football at CSU-Pueblo. Jon Meketuk of Weld Central signed to play football at Kansas Wesleyan.

March

The Bluedevils came up short of advancing to the state 3A boys basketball tournament. Eaton beat FLHS 58-39 in the fifth-place game at the district tournament.

“We came out a little flat-footed,” FLHS coach Jim Roedel said. “The moment was bigger than what we were ready for. They executed in the first half, and we didn’t. We were getting the shots. We just weren’t making them.”

Juan Vargas and Zach Boyd had one more chance to play together as high school basketball teammates. The reason was the Weld County all-star boys basketball game in Gilcrest.

“It was a good way to get out here and represent Fort Lupton,” said Boyd, who scored four points and participated in a halftime dunk contest. “We got to know each other. It’s a good way to go out in your senior year.”

“There was no pressure,” Vargas said. “It was more like a pick-up game. We just came out and played.”

Two members from the Bluedevils’ girls team  — Miranda Kruse and Regina Vega — were tabbed for the all-county game as well.

“It was fun,” Kruse said. “It wasn’t like a regular game. We had no set offense.”

“We knew it was just for fun,” Vega added. “We were out there to have fun. It was one last game as seniors, one last game with my girl, Miranda. It was fun.” 

April

Fort Lupton athletic director Joseph Gutierrez had a lot of company when it comes to rescheduling spring sports events.

The Bluedevils scrambled to find make-up dates late in the spring sports season, thanks to an abundance of rain and snow.

Unlike other springs, the weather was so very cold after a snowstorm. As a result, the snow has no chance to melt.

“It’s hard coordinating the make-up games,” Gutierrez said. “I may have an open date but I have to hope that others have the same open dates. And I keep my fingers crossed that the weather holds up. We’ve had some dead times the first couple of weeks in April where we could have played. But we rescheduled the games for later.”

Fort Lupton’s Javis Arellano seemed quite happy with his decision to move to the Colorado Rush U18 Academy team.

Arellano gave up his senior season with the Bluedevils to focus on an advanced level of soccer. He was among 16 players taken from a field of 70 to play with the academy squad.

“Something they really focus on is your mentality, how you prepare yourself,” he said. “The way you think and see the game is different. You don’t have to score a lot of goals to be the best player. Every player has different qualities. The team is what gets the most credit. We have to be technical and fast.

He signed to play collegiately at Fort Hays (Kan.) State.

May

Fort Lupton made it to the district playoffs in baseball this spring. But Manitou Springs was too much for the Bluedevils and won the game 10-3.

Colton McCutchan drove in two of FLHS’ runs and tried his best to keep his team in the game in spite of 13 bases on balls.

“It was frustrating,” McCutchan said. “You have to keep the team up. You’re the leader, the captain. It’s harder when things aren’t going right. But I’m confident in our guys. Sometimes, the coaches call pitches or I do. If the fastball isn’t working, then we’ll go more off-speed and vice versa. Sometimes, we have bad days.”

Cicero Johns capped off his track career for Fort Lupton with a second-place finish in the state 3A high jump. He also missed the school record in the event by 1 ½ inches.

“It feels good,” Johns said. “I didn’t break our school record, which was sad. I tried it at four different meets – 0-for-12 so far.”

He took sixth in the triple jump, too. He qualified for the triple jump for the first time this year. Johns said his last effort in the triple jump was the best.

And to cap off his last state track meet in high school, Johns placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdles during the three-day meet at Jeffco Stadium.

June

Zach Boyd had one more high school game to play, and it involved a long road trip.

He was among those chosen to play in the Colorado High School Coaches Association all-state games in Alamosa.

He might also remember the second-place finish in the event. Boyd scored six points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots in the semifinal overtime win.

“We outhustled them,” Boyd said. “We had the momentum. That’s what got us the win.”

 

September

There was one more round of bad weather to come this year, and it came just as the fall sports season was about to enter conference play.

Fort Lupton was lucky. The football team’s game at Strasburg was rescheduled because of the floods. Everything else on the athletic calendar was played as scheduled. The school hosted a fundraiser the third week in September to help out flood victims.

October

Albert Vasquez took over as coach of the Fort Lupton softball team this season, and the Bluedevils earned a spot in the regional playoffs at Lamar. Eaton turned back the Bluedevils to end Fort Lupton’s season.

Kelsea Nash was a co-player of the Colorado 7 League. She had a batting average of .526 and a 90 percent fielding percentage. Kayla Boyd batted .485 for the Bluedevils and had a fielding percentage of close to 87 percent. Morgan Vasquez batted a cool .786 this season, which led the state and was third in the nation. Her fielding percentage of .968 was tops in the state among shortstops.

“Not too many coaches get to coach such great girls,” Vasquez said. “I was truly honored to have such driven and talented girls, such as Kelsea Nash and Mo Vasquez, as my leaders. These girls sacrifice a lot, so it’s nice to see them having great success. It’s amazing to have the league co-player of the year for conference and another player who was the state of Colorado’s top hitter and tops in the nation as a first-year coach.”

Fort Lupton drew the 16th seed for the state 3A soccer playoffs and came within a whisker of beating the team that eventually won the title.

“I knew in July we were going to have a good team,” FLHS coach Archie Suniga said. “I saw the amount of kids who showed up for offseason workouts. It’s not easy getting high school kids out in the summer for two-hour sessions and 4 to 6 miles of running each day.”

“We knew we had a good team,” said goalkeeper Jesus Arellano, who finished with a goals-against average of 2.17. “We had a lot of seniors who were still playing with us. We knew we were going to have a good record and play for state.”

November

Colton McCutchan doubled up on sports this fall for the Bluedevils. He wound up with that rare opportunity to play both sports — football and soccer — in one day, and three games in the span of two days.

“We looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year, and we did not anticipate that,” he said. “But it was fun — wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Fort Lupton’s football team earned its first playoff berth in seven years. Gunnison hosted the Bluedevils in the first round and won the game 49-28.

“Fort Lupton is become relevant in football again,” quarterback Jeff Merritt said. “I’m proud of every one of my teammates. Juniors like Jacob Browne and Jacob Ornelas are going to have another winning season next year.”

“It meant a lot to us to go from getting our butts kicked and never having a winning season,” said Ian McPeek, another all-conference selection. “To have a winning season and to make the playoffs, it showed a lot of the doubters. We proved them wrong.”

The Bluedevils advanced to the regional volleyball playoffs and came within a victory of advancing to the state tournament.