Vail Christian wins league; eyes playoffs
Just think about how it started for the 2019 Vail Christian football team.
This year’s seniors were sitting on the bench watching the Saints get plastered, 46-6, at Grand Valley.
This was Vail Christian’s welcome — a rather rude one — to 11-man football. In 2016, the Saints went just 1-8, beating only Lake County in Week 2. Vail Christian was outscored, 340-94, in nine games, 28 of those points coming in the Lake County victory.
Three years later, Vail Christian put the finishing touches on a league championship — mercifully back at 8-man — by plastering Plateau Valley, 52-20, last weekend. As they’ve had to after the opening league stretch of Rangely and West Grand back-to-back, the Saints took care of business early, building a 44-0 lead at halftime.
This is league title No. 4 for Saints football (2003, 2008 and 2014). The 2003 team has all the warm-and-fuzzy feelings because it was the first and grows in legend.
The 2014 squad probably is the best — so far … — in school history with Sug Ellsworth hitting everything that moved, Mike Lange being Mikey Football because it was still a compliment to compare someone to Johnny Manziel and Clayton Davis being a jack of all trades.
However, what’s interesting is that this year’s squad is the first to win against the true Western Slope — Rangely, Plateau Valley, Hayden, Soroco, West Grand and Gilpin County. While the Vail Christian campus has moved just a few miles west during the last 20 years, the Saints have won the Central League (2003 and 2014) the Northern League (2008) and now the Northwestern League. This is probably the toughest circuit in which Vail Christian has played.
As much fun as 8-man offense can be, where the wildcat and the jet sweep have been staples of the playbook long before they were novelties in the college and pro game, the Saints have played defense this year.
Not only has it been a vast improvement from last year — the unit allowed 38 points per game — but it’s been dominant. Fun trivia: Vail Christian allowed a whopping 35 yards in a 12-6 win over defending league champ West Grand.
In a 46-22 win against Gilpin County, the Saints’ first-teamers didn’t allow a first down. This is the type of defense that wins no matter if it’s 8-man, 11-man or rugby.
Not that anyone has been looking at the rating-percentage index, but the 8-0 Saints have dropped to No. 2 behind 7-1 Dayspring Christian. What’s really weird is that No. 3 Sedgewick County (8-0) beat Dayspring, 56-16, and is No. 3. Sedgewick’s the one with a real beef.
Vail Christian can’t control RPI. What’s more, home games in the playoffs rotate by coinflip to even out the travel. All that’s guaranteed is that the Saints will be home for the first round.
With Senior Day on Saturday — 3 p.m. kickoff at Battle Mountain — and Byers coming to town, forget the RPI. Get the win, stay sharp and take a brief moment to see how far you’ve come.
Things are a lot better than that first game against Grand Valley.