GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT) It's hard to be a dominant program in high school sports. Players are only around for four years and they probably spend less than that actually starting in a game. The Grand Junction Tigers football team has had to deal with young teams for the last five years and constantly having to reload at key positions. This year they return most of their team and starting quarterback and he has this team humming to start the season.
If the first win of the season for the Tigers is any indication about how invested this team is in getting to the playoffs, then all opposing defenses better take notice. A 64-20 blowout win was carried out with the help of 33 upper-classmen.
"I think all 11 starters each side of the ball except a few are all seniors so that helps a lot,” said quarterback AJ Mariz. “Senior leadership is something we have lacked the past few years."
They are led by this guy, second year starting quarterback AJ Mariz. He went 2-4 with 119 yards through the air, both completions touchdowns. He did even more with his legs.
"I think he has shown some leadership,” said head coach Mike Sirko. “He's one of those kids that cares how we do. The seniors got together, went over some goals that they wanted. I was real excited that he led that charge."
The senior under center ran for 165 yards and four touchdowns and he's confident in the big guys ahead of him to create holes for him to run through.
"I feel a lot better this year,” Mariz said. “We have guys with experience under their belt at the line. We have three that are seniors and two juniors that played last year as sophomores so I put my full trust into those guys."
Mariz accounted for nearly half of the team's 584 total yards of offense. It's the first year a Tiger's team has had more than 14 seniors since 2015. GJ will look to ride that leadership to their first playoff appearance since 2014.
"It's going to be a heck of a lot different than it has been. I really do,” Sirko said. “I think what we have going for us is kids who understand what it's all about. They understand the price they have to pay."
With Mariz isn't taking a second off, soaking up every moment he gets to take the field under the lights.
"I'm excited my last year, senior year,” Mariz said. “Everyone says it goes by quick. I'm just hoping this season will go by kind of slow."