No. 4 Vail Christian advances to Round of 8 with win over Dove Creek, 66-30
Dayspring up next
GYPSUM — Coach Tim Pierson and the Vail Christian football team continued their pursuit of a perfect season with a 66-30 win against Dove Creek on Saturday in the Round of 16 for 8-man football.
Alumnus Ethan Kuhns quickly let the team know in its postgame huddle the score of its next opponent in the Round of 8 —Dayspring Christian over Rangely, 52-0.
“We just executed perfectly,” Saints senior quarterback Jamison Lee said about the matchup with the Bulldogs at Eagle Valley High School on Saturday. “If we found something that didn’t work, we switched it up and just stuck it to them. We’ve got Dayspring next week, and we’re ready for them.”
A coin toss has the No. 4 Saints traveling to Greeley next week to play No. 5 Dayspring.
“They’re a great team,” Pierson said of Dayspring. “Everybody here in the playoffs is great.”
Against the Bulldogs, senior kicker Andrew Stojkovich sent the opening onside kick bouncing with Dove Creek unable to recover. Saints senior Hayden Sticksel recovered for the early momentum for Vail Christian.
It took Lee and the Saints offense two plays and 50 seconds to score on its opening drive, a 40-yard touchdown scamper by senior Simon Nowicki with less than a minute ticked off the game clock. Lee added the 2-point conversion on the ground.
Nowicki, Lee as well as seniors Chris Cappel and Micah Sharpe often required a pack of Bulldogs to be taken down throughout the game.
“We’re senior heavy,” Pierson said, “and it’s a good group.”
Dove Creek scored once it got the ball, looking to even the score, but an illegal man downfield penalty nullified the play, and the Bulldogs eventually turned the ball over on downs — thanks to three straight tackles at the line of scrimmage by Saints sophomore Vincent Nowicki.
Cappel took a 40-yard run to the house on the Saints second drive, but Vail Christian failed on its 2-point conversion, taking a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Bulldogs would answer on their next possession, a 50-yard run by Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler followed by swinging gate 2-point conversion — moving all but three players to the left of the field and one down lineman. The Saints then went four and out, and the Bulldogs tied the game at 14 on Cressler’s second 50-yard touchdown run of the game.
“The defense played well,” Pierson said of the Saints. “They have a great young quarterback and he got us on a couple plays, but we kept after it and got a couple big stops at key times.”
Tied 14-14 after the first quarter, the Saints would go on a 14-0 run to end the half, scoring on a Simon Nowicki 30-yard pass from Lee and Cappel’s second rushing touchdown.
Vincent Nowicki added an athletic interception in the second for Vail Christian, and senior Andrew Flynn also swatted some passes.
Simon Nowicki busted a 55-yard run on the opening drive of the second half for the Saints, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down, making it 36-14. The Bulldogs answered right back in less than a minute on a beautiful fake high, handoff low by Cressler to Gauge Thompson, bringing Dove Creek within two scores in the third quarter, 36-22.
The Saints had an answer of their own, a 4-yard run by Sharpe, made possible by a costly offsides penalty by the Bulldogs on a Saints third down.
Leading 44-22 entering the fourth quarter, the Saints went up 50-22 on a 30-yard run by Lee followed by a four and out by the Bulldogs. Cappel’s third touchdown of the game, a 30-yard run on fourth-and-1, made the score 58-22 halfway through the fourth quarter.
“When we get our blocks, our offense is basically impossible to stop,” Cappel said.
Saints linemen Eddie Palacio, Slater O’Brien, and John Pavelich helped pave the way for the ground game — with Pavelich also scoring on a 2-point conversion late in the game.
Freshman quarterback Taylor Shull finished the fourth quarter, along with other up and coming Saints. Shull connected with Sticksel on a 45-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2, showing poise in the pocket facing a blitz and waiting for his receiver to create separation.
Sophomore Orion Adelman helped move the ball for the Saints in the fourth quarter, and junior Jedrzej Szabla also helped drain the clock.
Up next is Dayspring, in Greeley on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We’re just blessed for the opportunity and ready for Dayspring,” Lee said.