Devils linebackers on collision course with playoffs
“Basketball is a contact sport; football is a collision sport.”
– Bill Russell
Russell, who might be the best basketball player ever, was probably watching linebackers when he said that. This year’s starting linebackers at Eagle Valley High School are continuing the tradition of collision.
Charles Faulhaber and Tim Reitz are the Devils’ top two tacklers this year, and are a big reason the team is within one win of wrapping up a playoff berth this week at Gunnison today.
Both are thoughtful, soft-spoken students. When they put on the pads, though, both become ball-hawking search-and-destroy engines.
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“I just love to hit; it’s what you do as a linebacker,” said Faulhaber.
“You have to be intense,” added Reitz. “You can’t be afraid to give or take a hit.”
While intensity has been a hallmark of linebackers pretty much since the game was invented, the game isn’t all flying to the ball and blasting someone. Players have to be in position to make the plays that make whole crowds say “ooooh.” Linebackers are also responsible for setting defensive formations on the field, depending on how the offense lines up.
“You have to be smart,” said Reitz. “We’re pretty much the generals out there.”
Devils’ Coach John Ramunno is happy to have his senior linebackers making the defensive calls on the field saying, “They never miss a practice, they’re very dependable. And they like that contact.”
Eagle Valley’s defensive scheme is designed to funnel ball carriers to the linebackers. That means Faulhaber and Reitz have to do their jobs, as well as making the calls that put the defensive linemen in position to corral ball carriers. That takes homework. A lot of that homework is done on the practice field, but more still comes from film study of opposing teams.
On Monday, Reitz and Faulhaber already had about six pages of notes on formations Gunnison runs, courtesy of assistant coach Randy Rohweder.
This week’s practice is devoted to learning those formations on the practice field under the guidance of Assistant Coach Ron Beard, then recognizing them come game time.
“Once Friday comes, it’s programmed into you,” said Faulhaber. “You don’t want to be out there thinking.”
Reitz added, “If you hesitate, you’re out of the play.”
The senior duo hasn’t been out of many plays this season, which is good, because, like most small-school football heroes, Reitz and Faulhaber will likely be done with football whenever this season ends. “If someone wants to give me a chance, I’d love it,” said Faulhaber, who quickly added he doesn’t expect that to happen.
Both, though, have college plans, and plan to put to work the lessons they’ve learned by learning offenses.
“They’re really great kids,” said Ramunno. “They’re both 4.0 students. If the school was full of kids like them, this would be an amazing place.”
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise