When it comes to following in a father’s footsteps Zach Thenell, a senior quarterback at Bear Creek, has done quite well. In fact, the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder, has surpassed his dad, Tom Thenell, in the state’s football record book in several categories
Tom Thenell was a top player at Mullen, earning all-state honors when he played for the Mustangs (1978-79). Now, he is the head coach at Bear Creek.
Bear Creek is struggling at 2-4 this season, but that takes nothing away from how the younger Thenell has performed. As the season goes into the second half, Zach and Tom have been working hard to get the Bears back on track. Statistics are nice, but all they both want is to reach the Class 5A state playoffs.
“It has been great career, so far, with great coaching and great boys to play with and be around,” said Zach, who has completed 141 passes for 1,824 yards, 14 touchdowns and rushed for 310 yards. “They’ve all helped me in what I’ve been able to do. The season so far - we had a slow start and it’s been tough - but I think we'll be alright down the stretch. I think it is really cool having dad as my coach. You always have someone there for you no matter where you are at or what the situation is.”
Zach said the family does not talk a lot of football at home, where the family time, with mom, Diane, and sister Danni, an accomplished gymnast at Bear Creek, is more important.
“That’s where he is my dad and not my coach,” Zach said. “Danni and I have our own things going and we don’t see much of each other during the day when our sports are on. She has her practice, I have mine. But it’s a lot of fun to go and watch her. She has done gymnastics her whole life, and I have watched her since she was so little.”
Despite Bear Creek’s record, Zach, who has been selected second-team all-state the past two years, is having a pretty solid season. He began the 2009 campaign with 6,279 career passing yards and 68 touchdowns. Adding his six-game total, he has passed for 8,103 yards and has advanced to No. 6 on the all-time list in the category.
Thenell was not in the top 10 when the season began, but has since overtaken Ranum’s Tyler Hughes (6,502 yards), Grand Junction’s Doug Musgrave (6,839), D’Evelyn’s Mark Schaffer (6,965), Arickaree’s Garcia (7,471) and Simla’s Barry Helton (7,631).
Sitting in the No. 5 position is Arvada West’s Steve Cutlip (8,307 yards), only 204 yards away, while Alamosa’s Clay Garcia (8,606) is No. 4. To make it a Bear Creek sweep of the top three quarterbacks in passing, Thenell needs 1,170 more yards. The state career leader is Justin Holland, also from Bear Creek (10,565 yards), and former Bears player Sean Davis is No. 2 with 9,482 yards. The only other quarterback with more than 9,000 yards is Mullen’s Ryan Clement (9.273).
Zach Thenell already is No. 1 on the list for completion average in a season with 70.4 percent, while his father is No. 2 in a similar category, as he completed 68.5 percent for his career.
During his career, Zach has completed 593 passes and sits in the No. 3 position. The leader is Davis with 701, followed by Holland with 607. Last week, Thenell surpassed Clement, who was third with 571 completions.
“For the rest of the year we just have to grind it out,” said Thenell, who has not selected a college. “We know we have a good team and we can do what we can do. It’s a week-to-week thing now.”
The progress and success of Zach does weigh heavily on his father’s mind, but he knows he, too, he has to keep everything in perspective.
“The only reason that I coach Zach is that he plays on my team,” Tom said. “And what I try to do is be a support system for him like any other parent. I try to stay out of his affairs, unless necessary as a dad. I want to see both my kids do well and be successful as a parent. As a coach, I have a responsibility to this team and players and to the school to do the best we can.”
Top performers last week
Arvada West running back Isaac Fairbairn turned it on in the Wildcats’ 42-8 victory Friday against Westminster. He carried only seven times, rushing for 134 yards and scoring four touchdowns on runs of 10, 43, 29 and 36 yards, all in the first half. He made it five touchdowns in the first half, though, when he scored on an 80-yard kickoff return to open the game.
Columbine quarterback Danny Spond and wide receiver Sean Neu had quite a night in the Rebels’ 41-29 victory against Lakewood. Spond connected with Neu for three touchdowns of 19, 34 and 9 yards, ran for a 16-yard score and kicked four extra points. Neu also added a 95-yard kickoff return.
Rock Canyon quarterback Drew Sandlin passed for 431 yards and four touchdowns against Montrose, and has now thrown for 1,454 yards, 16 touchdowns. Keith Link caught six passes for 135 yards, and Tanner Krietemeier had 11 receptions for 124 yards in the win.
Cherry Creek’s Kain Colter has returned to his familiar position at quarterback for the Bruins. In Friday’s 35-3 victory against Grand Junction, he rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 142 yards and one touchdown.
Poudre’s Teran Mawhinney was a one-man show as the Impalas whipped Northglenn, 53-7 for their first win of the season. He rushed for 188 yards and scored six touchdowns on runs of 6, 17, 1, 7, 15 and 50 yards.
Durango gained its first victory against Fruita Monument in 12 years as the Demons beat the Wildcats, 27-0. Gus Barnes scored on two 1-yard runs. Kicker Avery Liewellyn kicked field goals from 38 and 47 yards as Durango stayed unbeaten at 6-0.
Pueblo County’s Brett Avila rushed for 203 yards to lead the Hornets to a 34-21 victory against Canon City. Avila, who has rushed for 788 yards this season, scored on runs of 1, 12, 74 and 42 yards as Pueblo County improved to 5-1.
Moffat County quarterback Matt Linsacum passed for three touchdowns and ran for a touchdown to pace the Bulldogs (4-2) to a 42-0 victory against Eagle Valley.
Jake Windsor of Lyons had a solid night in leading the Lions to a 40-0 victory against Front Range Christian. He rushed for three touchdowns and returned an interception for his fourth touchdown for the Lions (5-1).
Class 5A’s unranked Highlands Ranch jumped to a 21-0 lead against ThunderRidge, then had to hang on as the Grizzlies responded with three unanswered scores. The Falcons won by stopping a ThunderRidge two-point conversion attempt following the third touchdown.
Returning fumbles for touchdowns seemed to be the highlight of this week’s action.
Grandview’s Eddie Yarbrough returned his recovered fumble 10 yards for a score in the Grizzlies’ 32-6 victory against Overland; Matt Black had a 10-yarder in Pine Creek’s 18-7 win against Pueblo West; Kyle Scott of Sheridan recovered his in the end zone in the Rams 21-0 victory against Clear Creek, and Sam Rueb of Hi-Plains also collared one in the end zone in the Patriots 35-26 loss to Idalia.
Games of the Week
Class 5A: Pomona (5-1) vs. Arvada West (5-1), Friday.
Pomona surprisingly overwhelmed previously unbeaten Chatfield, 42-21, last week to gain the top spot in the Big 8 League. Arvada West had an easy victory against Westminster, 42-8, but nothing will be easy this time for either squad. Quarterback Gavin Glantz, who has passed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns, and running back Issac Fairbairn (384 rushing yards), have played key roles for Arvada West. Quarterback Nathan Grimes, running back Tyler Pace and wide receiver Jamar Herbert have played important roles for Pomona as the Panthers have scored 222 points through their first six games.
Class 4A: Lewis-Palmer (5-1) at Castle View (4-2), Thursday.
Lewis-Palmer was upended last week by Foothills League leader Liberty, 17-13, and the Rangers are looking to get back on track against Castle View. The SaberCats beat Sierra, 34-12, last week. Both teams are fairly well balanced in their offensive attacks. Lewis-Palmer quarterback Ben Shaum has passed for 508 yards and rushed for an additional 116. He has been intercepted three times. His counterpart, Marshall Thurston, has thrown for 309 yards, but only two touchdowns. Levi Patrick leads the Rangers in rushing with 468 yards and is also the team’s leading tackler.
Class 3A: D’Evelyn (5-1) at Conifer (5-1), Friday.
Both squads are coming off big offensive nights in their wins Friday. D’Evelyn shut out Evergreen, 45-0, while Conifer came through with a 58-27 victory against Alameda. D’Evelyn’s defense, paced by Josiah Flack, who has seven sacks and 86 total tackles, has allowed only 29 points this season. Brother, Caleb Flack, has been strong at quarterback, passing for 1,514 yards, with 35 completions going to Connor Davis (476 yards, seven touchdowns), and 26 to Mark Neely for 596 yards, six touchdowns. Conifer has three backs with more than 400 yards rushing this season. Leading the way has been Stephen Theiss (459 yards, 11 touchdowns), Kalvin Winter (420 yards) and Devin Riley (411 yards).
Class 2A: Olathe (6-0) at Aspen (5-1), Friday.
Olathe will be seeking its 21st consecutive victory as the defending state champion Pirates go up against Aspen. They had an easy victory against Cedaredge, 55-0, last week and have outscored their opponents 255-34. Aspen didn’t struggle either last week, beating Grand Valley, 54-13 and the Skiers have yet to lose at home this season. Aspen hopes to slow Olathe behind quarterback Anderson Cole, who has passed for 659 yards and nine touchdowns, and running back Nicky Ufkes (982 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). Olathe has been beating teams by an average of 33 points a game.
Class A: Wray (5-1) at Yuma (6-0), Friday.
This one will certainly be a head banger on the Eastern Plains. Yuma likes to keep the ball on the ground, having passed for only 265 yards this season. Toting the rock has been Joel Rhodes (753 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Nick Covell (504 yards, four touchdowns). Defensively, Joe Haag and Seth Bauke have been leaders for the Indians. Brett Vlasin has been pretty accurate at quarterback, passing for 613 yards, 13 touchdowns while not being intercepted. Leading the chart in receiving for the Eagles has been Ben Jones (11 receptions, 189) and Justin Forthwith (8-110). The running attack is balanced with Kelly Siegrist (361 yards) and Cole Beckman (330 yards) the leaders.
Class A 8-Man: Cheyenne Wells (5-1) at Simla (6-0), Friday.
Cheyenne Wells had its hands full with its 26-14 victory last week against Elbert. Simla continued to cruise with a 60-22 victory against Flagler. Quarterback Ross Pelton (43-for-89, 482-yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions) and running backs Tyson Mitcher (479 yards) and Justin Smith (350) have been the top offensive threats for Cheyenne Wells. Smith also leads the team in receptions (19, for 246 yards, three touchdowns) and tackles (37). Simla has outscored their opponents 272-92.
Class A 6-Man: Eads (4-2) at Otis (6-0), Friday.
Otis puts points on the board in a hurry, as the Bulldogs have scored 415 though their six games and have allowed only 125. Karson Kuntz, who has rushed for 787 yards and scored 16 touchdowns, and Jim McGrath (485 yards, nine touchdowns) have paced Otis offensively. Taylor Reed and Bert Guiterrez have helped pace Eads, which has scored 260 points this season.