Defense rules at Vail Christian
He just kept saying it again and again.
During last Saturday’s 32-6 win over Silver State, Vail Christian public-address announcer Steven Glandorf kept saying, “Patriots running back met by a “host of Saints.'”
It’s not that Glandorf couldn’t pick out the first-in on the tackle. He often did. It’s just that Saints seemingly swarmed the ball carrier every time.
Host of Saints.
Obviously, it’s an appropriate phrase for a a Christian high school. But, it also describes the way the 8-man Vail Christian team plays defense.
“If you look at our (defense), a part of it is a commitment to run to the football,” Saints head coach Bob Isbell said. “Like the picture (the Vail Daily) had (Sunday), there’s six blue helmets in that picture around the Silver State runner and there’s also one standing right behind. You can see it on the paper. And the eighth guy’s 10 yards behind. There’s a huge commitment to get to the football.”
Vail Christian has allowed a miserly 35 points in four games. The Saints recorded their first shutout in the team’s history in Week 1 against Longmont Christian. Six of those points came on an opening kickoff return against Westland Christian. Two of the other touchdowns came in fourth quarters when the game was long decided
All you need to know about the Saints defense comes from Vail Christian quarterback P.J. Bevan.
“The D always plays incredible,” Bevan said. “Offense just tries to keep up and put some points on the board, because the other team isn’t scoring much.”
That’s high praise from a quarterback, who isn’t exactly chopped liver. Bevan threw four touchdown passes last week.
But last week’s game against Silver State was the perfect example of the defense’s approach to the game – four turnovers, a key strip at the end of a long Silver State drive and tenacious goal-line stand in the third quarter.
Need a big play? These are your guys.
“Every play, we have a goal of what we’re going to do – of we’re going to get the ball that play. We work to get the ball as a team,” said Saints nose guard Kyle Bruntz.
These guys are ball hawks. Take linebacker Nate Simon’s clutch play at the beginning of the second quarter last week against the Patriots. Silver State marched 89 yards to the Saints’ 9-yard line. First-and-goal and Simon ripped the ball out of the hands of Silver State’s Justin Mantelli.
It was game breaker. It was also an individual achievement, which was the product of teamwork.
“You can’t play defense individually,” Simon said. “Everyone does their job or you don’t. If everyone does their job, the other team isn’t going anywhere.”
“The defense, the only reason we are strong is everyone can trust the other guys on the team that they’re going to do their job, which allows you to focus entirely on your job,” linebacker John McGee said. “It’s the trust that you do your part – everyone else is going to do theirs and it will turn out all right.”
That was the case in the third quarter last week, when the Patriots were threatening again on the Saints’ 11. On first down, safety Rex Roberts stuffed Josiah Achenbach for just two yards. Second down – David Solich gets slammed by Simon and Kyle Morris.
On third down, Roberts, sitting on an island one-on-one with a Patriots receiver, bats the ball away. On fourth down, Bruntz and Andreas Bauer, finish it with a sack.
Making the Saints defense’s exploits all the more remarkable is that this is 8-man football on a regulation-sized football field. There’s a lot of room out there and points can come by the bushel-load.
“It’s a much faster game than 11-man,” McGee said. “A big play goes 80, 90 yards. So, most of it’s conditioning. You have to be in the condition that you can cover your entire section of field.”
They can do it at Vail Christian. Bauer, Will Guffey and Richard Butters are the ends. Bruntz, with the help of Stephen Shainholtz, take care of things in the middle of the line. Simon and McGee are a potent duo at linebacker.
If something gets by the front five, there’s cornerback Robbie Brgoch and Roberts. If they need a spell, Isbell can call on Morris and Matt Seatvet.
Of all the names listed above, only Bruntz, a junior, is not a senior.
“They are tied at the hip,” Isbell said. “I laughed and told our parents, “Our seniors have been waiting to be leaders since they came here as freshmen.’ They came in with a lot of tools. It was freshman class that you could look at and say, “Now, there’s a lot of talent.’ Just through the years they’ve ben chomping at the bit.”
That will be the goal Saturday at Huskies Stadium at 1:30 p.m., against Maranatha Christian, as a part of Homecoming.
A host of Saints will be waiting for the Crusaders.
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.