Saints fall to Conquerors, 28-6
GYPSUM – With the Saints trailing 28-6 late in the forth quarter, it could be expected that there were few Saints starters left on the field.But even if the score had been tied, they still wouldn’t have been in there.After losing two key starters in the preseason, the Saints suffered injuries to three more starting players in Saturday’s 28-6 loss to Christian Fellowship in 8-man football.Center Tommy Peskorz left the game in the second quarter with a broken wrist. Another two-way starting lineman left the game when Jake Blair broke his finger, and running back Bjorn Bauer left in the forth quarter after losing vision in one eye.”We’re really thin right now,” said coach Tim Pierson. “Once again, we have more adversity.”Coming into the preseason, the team had five seniors, but by the end of Saturday’s game, only Josh Sibley and Jonathan Romero remained in the game.”It’s hard to bounce back from that, but we have a strong team,” said Jaryd Francis.Despite the injuries, the Saints stayed with the Conquerors for most of the game.”They didn’t make any mistakes, and we made a couple, and that’s what made it 28-6,” said Francis.
Offensive startBoth teams scored on their first drives but failed on two-point conversions. The Conquerors ran on every play of a drive that started near midfield.”We knew we had a good running game, but our offensive line is a little inexperienced,” said Christian Fellowship coach Truman Abbott.The Conquerors’ offensive line battled the Saints’ defense all day.”We knew this team would come out and run, and we were ready for it,” Pierson said. “I think we handled (the run) a lot better in the second half.” Vail Christian used a mix of plays to score on its opening drive. On forth down and nine, the Saints scored with a 29-yard touchdown pass. Francis had two complete passes on the drive, one to Sibley, who made a nice one-handed grab.Twice in the first half, Christian Fellowship scored on half-back option passes, and at halftime, Christian Fellowship led 20-6.Minutes and seconds.
Christian Fellowship controlled the ball for most of the first half.”We didn’t get the opportunity to really establish any rhythm or settle down and go for it,” said Pierson.With 48 seconds remaining in the first half, the Saints took over in their own end, but three plays later, they were forced to punt. On the snap, the ball sailed over Francis’s head, but he was able to get off a punt with his opposite foot that wobbled fifteen yards.Only 10.7 seconds remained when Christian Fellowship ran a half-back option, but the pass was incomplete. On the next play the Conquerors ran the option again, and as time expired, the ball bounced off the hands of a Saints defender and into the arms of Ryan Domingos in the end zone.”The ball bounces the right way sometimes, and you get a score,” Abbott said.At the start of the second half, the Saints failed to get to recover a high kickoff that dropped at the 35-yard line. The Conquerors used that kickoff all game.”I just didn’t want to kick the ball to number 44 (Francis),” Abbott said.Hustle ’till the endThe hustle play of the game went to Chase Gruber of the Saints. After Kris Penton of Christian Fellowship stripped the ball from Francis, he picked it up and ran towards the Vail Christian end zone with five teammates. Gruber was the only Saint close to Penton and eluded several blocks to make the touchdown-saving tackle.
“Chase plays with a lot of heart,” Pierson said.Several players who filled in for the injured Saints played well.”I am most pleased with the way the young kids stepped up,” Pierson said. “Some of them are playing their first year and had to play the whole game. It says a lot about guys who don’t get a lot of reps in practice, play full games and make good plays.”Tim Ragan, who replaced Peskorz, looked like a veteran center, snapping to ball into Francis’s hand seven yards behind him. Freshman A.J. Burgess had several runs to keep late drives alive.The Saints forced the Conquerors to give up the ball on downs three times in the second half.”It was great we could step up and hold them and get turnover on downs,” said Caleb Pearson.Keeping the other team to 28 points in 8-man football is normal, but scoring six points is low for any type of football.”It’s great that we can stop the other team, but it’s frustrating when we can’t get our offense going down the field.”Christian Fellowship’s defense had a lot to do with the lack of Saints’ points on the board.”Early on, they were in a 3-3 formation and blitzed like crazy from the linebackers,” Pierson said. “It would be the equivalent of a 3-5-3 in 11-man football.”
Francis scrambled well in the pocket and eluded rushers but often had little time to make a pass while standing still.”They were sending what seemed like six guys on the blitz every play, and we just had a four-man line,” Francis said. “They were coming fast, and they had some good defensive backs.”Work aheadIn addition to filling the gaps of the injured players, the Saints are going to have to fill some of the blocking lanes.”We have to get more confident in the pocket and get a little more blocking up front,” said Sibley.Pierson hopes to get the offense putting points back on the board.”We gotta keep working on our short passing game,” Pierson said. “Once we can get that going, it’ll open up other things. We can then run our power dives and control the clock a little bit.”Sports writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608 or via email@example.comVail, Colorado