GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT) One thing the Grand Junction Tigers football team has lacked has been consistency. This year, the Tigers bring back a large group of upperclassmen and head coach Mike Sirko will lean on them and their experience this season.
From 2015 to last season, Grand Junction has not had more than 14 seniors on the team. This year, they'll have 21 on the roster and feel like they can build around the leadership in the locker room.
"Coming into the season, we feel pretty excited about the fact that we've got some kids that got a lot of playing time last year coming back so we feel that's going to help too,” said head coach Mike Sirko. “Just getting that confidence that you need."
"Senior leadership is something we have lacked the past few years,” senior quarterback AJ Mariz said. “I feel like having more of those numbers come in, we're going to take all of these guys underneath our wing, including these freshmen and show them the Tiger way."
"We've got a lot of seniors and I think it's really going to pay off,” said senior wide receiver Dillon Smith. “We all really accept that leadership role and we're all there for each other."
And they put in the time over the summer in the weight room.
"We woke up every morning super early just to get in and lift,” said Smith. “We've been putting in a lot of work and i think it'll really pay off."
"We had majority-95 percent of our guys in the weight room every day. That helps a lot,” Mariz said. “We're getting well-conditioned for this first week. I know a lot of us may not like running, especially my big guys, but that's just what's going to happen. We're all bought in as much as we can be."
The Tigers only scored 156 points last season, that's last in the 4A Jeffco League. They have the answer to punch it in the end zone more this season.
"Effort, and not getting down on ourselves,” said Mariz. “We had a huge problem with finishing the play, finishing the drive or finishing the game. We're going to go until we're dog-tired, until we fall on the field."
"Our line has really improved,” Smith said. “I think them working together this offseason has really bonded them and our team is really bonding well right now."
It'll be year two with Mariz behind center, finally brining some consistency at the quarterback position.
"I think he has shown some leadership,” said Sirko. “He's one of those kids that cares how we do. It's nice to have some guys that understand what we've been trying to preach the last three years."
"I'm excited, it's my last year,” Mariz said. “Senior year, you know, everyone says it goes by quick. I'm excited to spin it out here with my boys. It's going to be one hell of a ride."