Healthy Saints open at Mountain View
EDWARDS ” Plague, famine and pestilence have seemed to follow Vail Christian 8-man football the last few years.
OK, maybe it hasn’t been that bad for the Saints, but if the team had invested in publicly-held HMOs the last few seasons, the school’s gym would have been done a long time ago and the Saints would have a plush 70,000-seat football stadium on campus.
“We’ve been doing a lot of emphasis on conditioning, “Saints coach Tim Pierson said. “We’re stretching before practice. We’re being really, really careful in warming up and warming down. We’re trying to teach the fundamentals of tackling and trying to do everything right.
“I think the kids have done a good job of listening and doing it the right way. If you get a little lazy out there, you’re making yourself susceptible.”
The Saints have emerged from the preseason, missing just one starter ” James Huzella ” who’s out with a non-related football illness, and are all but at full strength for their opener at Mountain Valley Saturday.
“We’re getting excited to hit somebody wearing a different-colored jersey,” Pierson said. “We’ve stayed healthy, so that’s a positive. We would love to have James ready to play. What’s exciting is that we’ve got a lot of senior leadership. There aren’t many seniors, but they’ve done their job.”
Meet the Saints
Chase Gruber, Bubba Murray, Matt Barry and Huzella make up that quartet, and Pierson will be looking at them to make an impact, especially on defense. Vail Christian lost Caleb Pearson and Bjorn Bauer to graduation.
Gruber should be the anchor of the retooled Blue Crush at linebacker, leading the 3-2 front, along with nose tackle Kieran Hurtt.
Murray, in place of Huzella, and Barry are penciled in at defensive ends, while Corey Seeman and Elliott Simon will split time at the other linebacker spot. A.J. Burgess and Elliott Ristow are in the cornerback slots and Chris Schmidt will monitor the middle as the safety.
“Bubba’s making the transition from corner back to defensive end, which should be interesting to watch,” Pierson said. “We’ll see how sophomores Steil Beagley and Devan Christie can fit in. They’ve been doing great things during the preseason. With Kieran and Chase, we may have the best nose tackle and linebacker in the league.”
Quarterback Larry Cavanaugh’s only a sophomore, but he saw a lot of time under center last season.
“Larry’s got a lot of natural leadership,” Pierson said. “He’s spent a lot of time in the weight room and gotten a lot bigger. He’s got a good grasp of the offense. He has a lot of natural talent. He moves really well in the pocket. It’s been exciting to see him mature. He’s come a long way in a year.”
There’s good size on the line in front of him and the Saints have some solid skill players. Kelly Lowry is the center with Hurtt and Barry at guard. Gruber should be multifaceted at tight end. Murray will be the running back, but will get help from Burgess.
Burgess will also spend time at wide receiver with Ristow and Schmidt.
The Saints started last year 2-1 before the injury bug caught up with them and finished 26 overall and 1-5 in the Central League. In addition to staying healthy, cutting down on the mistakes will be key in 2007.
Nederland and Silver State appear to be the class of the league until someone proves otherwise. The good news is that the Saints don’t play those two until the final two weeks of the season, allowing Vail Christian some time to gain experience.
The Saints fell to Mountain Valley in last year’s season opener, 36-20, but hope to return the favor in Sauguache this weekend. Vail Christian returns home to Eagle Valley’s Hot Stuff Stadium for its home opener against Gilpin County. Homecoming is Sept. 29 against Victory Christian (formerly known as Christian Fellowship).
Eight-man football has a new postseason format this year. Four teams from the Central League advance to crossover play Oct. 27 against the top-four squads from Plains League. The winners of those games head to the state playoffs.
With the Plains’ top team slated to play the Central League’s No. 4 seed and Central No. 1 playing Plains No. 4 and so on, the Saints would like to finish as high as possible in the conference as possible. That would help them avoid the likes of 8-man powers Merino or Haxtun.
In the meantime, the Saints ask that you please check the plague at the door.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.