Craig Middle School starts athletes on path to big things |

Craig Middle School starts athletes on path to big things

Craig Middle School seventh-grader Landen Najera, right, provides blocking as teammate Kevin Hernandez charges upfield during CMS's Aug. 28 game against Rangely. The team fell 22-6 in the first match of the season.

Between the carefree days of recreational sports and the more intensely competitive high school scene lies something in the middle.

Middle school, that is.

Craig Middle School's sports seasons are underway, giving students their earliest taste at school-sponsored athletics during the seventh and eighth grade years, hopefully the first of many they'll spend as Bulldogs. The middle school’s fall sports for this year include football, volleyball and cross-country.

A glimpse of the gridiron

Many middle school students have gotten the chance to slip on a helmet and pads in their younger days through Craig Parks and Recreation's Doak Walker tackle football league, but the tweenagers that make up CMS' seventh grade found themselves facing a challenge Thursday in their first game of the year when they hosted Rangely.

Because the Panthers had a small roster, Rangely combined its seventh and eighth grade teams. CMS coaches chose to keep their older Bulldogs sidelined to see how the rookies could handle themselves.

The seventh-graders ultimately lost, outsized considerably by some of Rangely's hulking ranks, but a rough 14-0 first quarter got easier. Riley Nelson scored the first touchdown of the year, with Kevin Hernandez and Caleb Cuevas also providing a lot of yardage.

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Seventh grade coach Marco Cuevas chalked up the 22-6 defeat to first game "jitters."

"We still hung with them, and it wasn't easy for them," he said. "They haven't played 11 on 11 and played the field as big, so their eyes were kind of saucers when they came out."

Now that the seventh-graders have had their initial experience, much of their intimidation will fade as the season continues, he added.

Eighth grade coach Norm Yoast said he's got a good feeling about this season, with both teams' next game Saturday in Steamboat. With a schedule that includes some new additions like New Castle's Riverside Middle School, he anticipates being able to prepare his squad for the next level.

"We just want them to enjoy football, get better and be ready for high school," he said.

Running with the big dogs

The opening meet of the season turned out well for CMS' cross-country team, which competed alongside the runners of Moffat County High School's group in their own race at the Delta Invitational.

Eighth-grader Madysen Cramer came in first place among the girls in the meet with a time of 13 minutes flat along the 3K course.

Seventh-grader Alyssa Chavez finished ninth (14:55), followed by eighth-graders Brianna Burkett (17th, 15:49), Sadea Reidhead (24th, 17:03) and Molly Neton (28th, 17:48).

"They did very well," coach Sara Linsacum said.

CMS placed fourth out of five overall, with runners from Telluride, Crested Butte and Delta keeping their teams highly ranked.

The team is all girls, six total, this season, the second year for Linsacum as coach.

"We're really taking off quicker, and their times are much quicker than they were last year," she said.

CMS will run at Rawlins, Wyoming, next on Friday. The team also will host middle school competitors later this season at Loudy-Simpson Park, alongside MCHS' invitational, which they ran at last year.

"They know what to expect," Linsacum said.

Dig deep for good results

CMS welcomes two new coaches this season to take over the volleyball teams, with Vicki Blomquist heading the seventh-graders and Markie Green overseeing the eighth-graders.

The duo each run separate practices, seventh grade in Sandrock Elementary School's gym, but their focus is the same: fundamentals.

"We're working on our passing, bump, set, spike if you can," Green said. "We have a lot of promising talent, and hopefully, they incorporate what we learn in practice into their game."

Green said she and assistant coach Amy Wilson are looking forward to teaching a love for the sport to the girls, a mix of seasoned eighth-graders and those playing for the first time.

For Blomquist, everyone is new to volleyball, meaning she has to start from the ground up with the basics for seventh-graders, the biggest reminder being the cardinal rule of the game: Don't let any balls hit the floor.

"They're really progressing so far," she said.

Both grade levels will see the first meet at a tournament hosted Saturday in Steamboat Springs.

"I've got some great young athletes," Blomquist said. "We're going to practice, and we're going to play hard."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

Craig Middle School 2014 fall sports schedules


Time, Date — Opponent, Home/Away

9 a.m., Sept. 6 — Steamboat Springs, away

4 p.m., Sept. 9 — Rawlins, Wyoming, home (Seventh grade)

4 p.m., Sept. 9 — Rawlins, Wyoming, away (Eighth grade)

10 a.m., Sept. 13 — New Castle, away

5:30 p.m., Sept. 16 — Rangely, away (Seventh grade B-team)

9 a.m., Sept. 20 — Intersquad game, home

4:30 p.m., Sept. 25 — Steamboat Springs, away

4:30 p.m., Sept. 30 — Steamboat Springs, home

9 a.m., Oct. 4 — Rifle, away

9 a.m., Oct. 11 — Meeker, home

— All games are seventh and eighth grade unless noted.


Time, Date — Meet location

1 p.m., Sept. 5 — Rawlins, Wyoming

9 a.m., Sept. 13 — Gypsum

9 a.m., Sept. 20 — Loudy-Simpson Park

9 a.m., Sept. 26 — Saratoga, Wyoming


Time, Date — Opponent, Home/Away

9 a.m., Sept. 6 — Steamboat Springs tournament, away

9 a.m., Sept. 13 — CMS tournament, home

4:30 p.m., Sept. 18 — Baggs, Wyoming, away (Seventh grade)

5 p.m., Sept. 18 — Rangely, away (Seventh and eighth grade C-teams)

9 a.m., Sept. 20 — North Park tournament, away

5:30 p.m., Sept. 25 — Rangely, home (Seventh and eighth grade C-teams)

9 a.m., Sept. 27 — Meeker tournament, away

5:30 p.m., Oct. 2 — Meeker, away (Seventh and eighth grade C-teams)

9 a.m., Oct. 4 — Rangely tournament, away (Seventh grade)

4:30 p.m., Oct. 9 — Baggs, Wyoming, home (Seventh grade)

9 a.m., Oct. 11 — Rangely district tournament, away

— All games are seventh and eighth grade unless noted.

— All dates and times in each sport are subject to change.