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Local kid spends football season in Florida

Dante Marchitelli steps into starting quarterback role

by Than Acuff

When the word came down that Gunnison high school would not have a varsity football team this season, Mike Marchitelli, father of Crested Butte high school student and Gunnison high school quarterback Dante Marchitelli, got on the phone.

“I had about 48 hours to make the decision,” says Mike. “Since we didn’t have a varsity program here, I thought it best to send him off to play in a varsity program. I made some phone calls and found a school that needed a senior quarterback.”

It’s not the first time local kids have opted to take their pursuit of sports elsewhere. In fact, Aaron Blunck moved to Vail in high school to get more focused training in ski halfpipe, and other local athletes have made the move to Denver to pursue their hockey careers.

But Dante’s move was a little more drastic. His pursuit of varsity football led him to Citrus Park Christian school in Tampa, Florida. While Florida is quite a-ways from Colorado, Dante’s grandparents live there, making the transition a little more palatable for the family. Plus, it checked off some key boxes for Dante.

“Based on the info we had about the school, this looked like the best opportunity to play and to have a chance to play college football the next year,” explains Dante, “one I could go to and be the guaranteed starter.”

The transition was admittedly a bit unnerving. Not only was Dante moving across the country to live in a new town and play for an entirely new football team, he was coming into the program a week late.

“They already had a week of practice and I was going to get just five practices in before the first game,” says Dante.

Having Ed Shenk as coach did help Dante with the transition, as did his work with the Gunnison high school football team the year prior.

“Coach Ed Shenk had played in the NFL, so I was comforted by that,” says Dante. “And in the offense we ran under coach Jarrod Hinton—we threw the ball a lot, more of a spread offense. This offense I am a little more under center but I still get to throw the ball 20 times a game.”

When Mike first went to watch Dante play on his new team, one difference was noticeable from the get-go when compared to the level Dante played at in Colorado.

“The teams they play are unreal,” says Mike. “The speed is unreal. The kids down there just have a gear we don’t have.”

“At first it was a little quicker,” adds Dante, “but after the first two games I was used to it.”

Dante did get one wake-up call in the second game of the season when his team faced a huge Florida program, Tarpon Springs, a public school that plays in the largest class in Florida.

“They had a defensive lineman whose cousin plays for the L.A. Rams right now,” explains Dante. “When he hit me on the second play of the game, that was my first ‘Whoa!’ moment.”

Dante’s team has struggled this year but on Monday (the game was initially scheduled for Friday but postponed due to a tornado) they won their homecoming game 52-6, during which Dante had three throwing touchdowns and one running touchdown. Overall though, Dante’s emotions about the season are somewhat mixed.

“We don’t have a winning record so it’s hard to say I’m happy with the way it’s gone, and there are some games I could’ve played better,” says Dante. “But, it was a good experience and I’m glad I did it. Coach Shenk has taught me a lot. I’ve learned a lot from him and the other coaches.”

Dante plans on returning to Crested Butte after the first semester and then will see where football takes him in college.

“I haven’t received any offers but I plan on being on a college football roster next year,” says Dante. “After that first year I hope to find a school where I can be a good fit and play.”

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