HAYDEN — West Grand did its part, but, more importantly, Vail Christian 8-man football got the job done.
The Saints went to Hayden Friday night and blanked the Tigers, 20-0. And when injured linebacker/running-back Cole Caynoski came into the locker room, bellowing the news that West Grand had defeated Soroco, 16-6, Vail Christian became Central League champions.
“It’s great,” Saints coach Tim Pierson said. “I’m excited. It’s awesome.”
OK, Pierson said that in his typical monotone voice. He’s a low-key guy, never too high or low in public. But it is a big deal. It is Vail Christian’s first Central league title since 2008, and only the third in school history. While the 2003 football team remains the standard by which all Saints teams are measured, this was Vail Christian’s first title in the newly-configured Central League, which is now composed of bigger schools, which have dropped down into 8-man football, from around the Western Slope.
This was also a rather improbable title, given that the Saints had a three-week layoff during the middle of the regular season. They missed games against Longmont Christian (Front Range flooding) and South Park (dropped its program) in September. Vail Christian returned to the field, only to lose to Soroco, 14-12, in a heart-breaker.
That ended up being the turning point.
“I think that the team, as a whole, after losing to Soroco, came together,” junior Ethan Ellsworth said. “We formed a bond and got the drive to win.”
The Saints went to Rangely, winning, 26-8, knocked off West Grand, 16-12, and then blanked Hayden. Each win was the first time the Saints had beaten those three opponents. What’s more, the 16-12 decision over West Grand remains the Mustangs’ only loss in four years in the Central League.
As opposed to past Saints’ teams which used speed and passing, this squad is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. The Saints like to run over opponents on both sides of the ball, and that’s how they won Friday night.
Quarterback Branden Currey ran for a 30-yard touchdown during the first half for 6-0 lead. Meanwhile, Vail Christian’s defense just pounded on the Tigers. With Caynoski out at linebacker, Ray Trillo filled in at nose guard, forming a big front three with Currey and Alex Davis. Max Schramm joined Ellsworth and linebacker and they hit everything that moved, and the last line of defense, which is Mike Lange, Clayton Davis and Kennedy Nary, stood its ground.
“I think we knew with Cole out, other people had to step up,” Ellsworth said.
Currey found the end zone again in the third, this time for six yards. In the fourth quarter, Lange had a 7-yard run for a score and the pass from Currey to Schramm was good for two, and the Saints (5-1) were on their way.
As the Central League champions, Vail Christian will host Pikes Peak Christian on Saturday in the crossover round. Time and location are being negotiated.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.