RENO - There is literally nowhere for the Galena High football team to go except up.
Coming off a 2004 season in which Galena went 1-5 against High Desert League opposition and 1-9 overall, the Grizzlies are banking on a nucleus of 18 returning lettermen to carry them back to the playoffs in a tough High Desert League that includes McQueen, Reed, Bishop Manogue, Elko and Spanish Springs team that are all regarded as playoff contenders.
The Grizzlies had appeared in the playoffs each of the previous four seasons, including back-to-back 6-3 showings in 2001 and '02. Steve Struzyk is entering his third season as head coach and has been at the school for seven years overall.
Galena kicks off its season on Saturday, Sept. 3, with a nonconference game at South Tahoe.
Leading the list of returnees is senior Casey Ernst (5-11, 200 pounds), a third-year varsity starter who earned second-team all-league recognition at middle linebacker last year even though he was slowed by a shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games. Ernst has been listed as a second-team all-state linebacker on the Nevadaprepreport.com preseason all-state list.
Senior James Ripsom also earned honorable mention all-league recognition as an offensive guard last year.
Galena only scored 93 points in 10 games last year, and they gave up 254, but there are other talented players coming back who are anxious to help turn those stats around.
Tight end/linebacker Cole Dowty should be one of the area's best athletes, coming off a junior year in which he finished as a state wrestling runner-up in the 171-pound weight class and was also a state track meet qualifier in the 4x800 relay. Two other Grizzlies shined during the spring track season - quarterback/linebacker Tony Fritsche (6-3, 180) was a state pole vault champion and wide receiver/defensive back Zack Shannon was a state runner-up in the high jump.
Fritsche and Jordan Arnold both return after sharing time at quarterback last year. Ryan Krueger, Cody Holland and James Morrison return as running backs. Geoff Faber (6-7, 280) is a returning lineman.
There were some rays of light during the 2004 season. First of all, Galena's one win was a 9-7 verdict against Manogue, then-undefeated and riding a 30-game win streak. Tyler Ewald kicked three field goals - the last a 52-yarder with 2:35 remaining - to account for all of Galena's scoring.
There were some other close calls along the way, including a 20-19 loss against Carson, 14-3 against Reno and 19-10 against a Reed team that lost to Las Vegas High in the state semifinals. And an 80-yard fumble return for a touchdown turned the momentum in a 21-9 loss against Fallon.
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.
Sept. 3 @South Tahoe 1:30
Sept. 9 Wooster 7:30
Sept. 16 @McQueen* 7:30
Sept. 23 Shadow Ridge 7
Sept. 30 Spanish Springs* 7:30
Oct. 7 @Fallon* 7:30
Oct. 14 Elko* 7:30
Oct. 21 Bishop Manogue* 7:30
Oct. 27 @Reed* 7:30
* Denotes High Desert League game