An outstanding 6-3 season has resulted in many post-season honors for members of the Rocky Mountain High School football team including five Class 1A All-State selections.
Seniors Brian Crawford, Gehrig Sweat, Cole Simmons and Garrett Vezain, and junior Tristan Jewell, were picked for the 1A All-State Team and were joined on the 1A West All-Conference team by seniors Triston Rusch and Zach Zier.
Juniors Treyson Frost and Wyatt Horrocks, as well as junior Ethan Price, received honorable mention all-conference recognition.
Coach Richard Despain was named Coach of the Year for the 1A West Conference.
Despain said the word consistency comes to mind when he thinks of Crawford, the lightning quick running back and linebacker for the Grizz.
“He was there every night and showed a real toughness,” Despain said. “He’s not a big guy, but man he just plays big. We used him as a running back, threw to him, and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Cokeville. He played on both sides of the ball and was real versatile. He was 130 pounds of heart.”
Crawford gained 237 yards rushing on just 33 carries, a 7.2-yard average, and scored five touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 123 yards and two TDs, a 24.6-yard average per catch. He was also second in the team with 119.5 defensive points.
Senior running back/linebacker Sweat helped drive the team with his passion for football.
“Injuries kept him from a full season, but he was our high energy guy,” Despain said. “He’s another kid who brings a level of toughness to the team. He has great speed and is hard to bring down. He was all over the field on defense: pass coverage, pass rushing, everywhere.”
Sweat gained 388 yards rushing on 76 carries, a 5.1-yard average, with three touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns, a 14.8-yard average. He was sixth on the team in defensive points with 97.
Simmons was named the 1A West Offensive Player of the Year after leading the state and conference in passing at 139.2 yards per game and his team in rushing. The senior completed 75 of 137 passes – 55 percent – for 1,253 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only five interceptions. He also carried the ball 84 times for 433 yards and nine touchdowns, rushing for a 5.2-yard average.
As a cornerback, he finished the season with 65 defensive points.
“Cole had some long runs with the quarterback powers we ran,” Despain said. “He threw a great ball and had no quit in him. In games where things weren’t going so well, he could be counted upon to give everything he had.
“He’s a very talented kid and as a leader led with his play – his toughness and how hard he competed. He led the state in passing, and this was his first year at quarterback. He had been a receiver. Running a new system in his first year as a quarterback, he did a great job. That takes a lot of work.”
Vezain was a force at offensive and defensive tackle, leading the Grizzlies with 138 defensive points on 74 assisted tackles, 14 solo tackles, nine tackles for a loss and three sacks.
“It’s not often that a defensive lineman leads the team in defensive points, but he did,” Despain said. “He had a motor. He never quit on a play. He would chase it clear to the sideline and never quit on it.
“He was also a strong, athletic, smart offensive lineman.”
Jewell was a top receiver and defensive back for the Grizzlies as a junior.
“Tristan led Class 1A in receiving (52.3 yards per game) and was also a hard-nosed safety on defense,” Despain said. “He was an athletic receiver with great speed, and people had to watch for his blocking. Several times he punished linebackers with his blocking. That’s why we were able to get outside on spin sweeps. He was also our return guy on punts and one of our two deep guys on kickoffs. He did a great job at safety with several (three) interceptions.”
Jewell led the Grizz with 26 receptions for 471 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. He also carried the ball six times for 55 yards, a 9.2-yard average. He was fifth on the team in defensive points with 98.
Senior Triston Rusch was another strong lineman on both sides of the ball, starting at offensive guard and defensive tackle. He was fourth on the team with 98.5 defensive points with 56 assisted tackles and eight solo stops.
“Triston is a high-energy guy and a competitor,” Despain said. “He worked hard to help the team win.”
Zier was a tackle on offense and both a tackle and end on defense, recording 56 defensive points on the season.
“Zach is a strong, athletic kid,” Despain said. “He’s pretty versatile. Our ability to move him around on the defensive line made us a better team. He was also an athletic offensive lineman, one of our better pullers.”
Frost was a versatile running back and linebacker for the Grizz who could run, catch and throw the football. He rushed for 144 yards on 37 carries with three touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 94 yards. He also completed two of three passes for 32 yards and recorded 61 defensive points.
“Treyson is smart and was a good weapon for us,” Despain said. “He was always working hard and did everything the coaching staff asked him to do.”
Horrocks was a tough fullback on offense and hard-hitting middle linebacker and defensive end on the other side of the ball, recording 72.5 defensive points on the season. He carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards (5.6-yard average) and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 14 yards, but his real value came as a blocking back.
“He was always working hard, always,” Despain said. “He did all of the thankless things like going to the D line or being a lead blocker. And he did it all without complaining.
“He’s going to be a leader next year that we’ll lean on. That goes for all four of our returning all-conference players.”
Like Jewell, Price was an athletic receiver who could go up high to get the ball, as well as a speedy cornerback.
“He was athletic and did his job wherever we put him,” Despain said. “He worked hard. He was also our backup quarterback, so he had a lot on his plate learning.”
Price was third on the team in defensive points with 105 and caught 13 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 18.8 yards per catch.
By David Peck