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Saints hit the road for Holly

EDWARDS – Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Well, the Vail Christian 8-man football team is going to be awfully close to the Sunflower State Saturday when it’s at Holly at 1 p.m., in Round 2 of the state playoffs.

Four miles, to be exact.



“I asked their coach how close they were to Kansas,” Saints football coach Bob Isbell said. “He said, “On a good day, you can throw a rock over there.'”

According to Mapquest.com, it is 365.19 miles from Edwards to Holly. Let’s hope the Saints are getting frequent bus miles for this.



All kidding aside, Isbell doesn’t see this as an obstacle.

“If you look at our first three games, which were our toughest games in the league, they were all away,” Isbell said. “I think we’re used to going away and we’ve done it before. We’ve played tough opponents before, and we did it three weeks in a row, which is a pretty ugly thing to have to do.”

Isbell’s greater concern is that team that the team which awaits the Saints.



Size vs. speed.

“They’re huge. They’re just humongous,” Isbell said. “They’ve got three big o-linemen on offense. They’ve got a good quarterback. They’ve got more than two or three good running backs. They’ve got some depth at running back. They like to run the ball more.”

If this is sounding like part II of the Saints’ Round 1 64-52 win against Genoa Hugo, you may be on to something.

“In (the Arkansas Valley League), if you want to be competitive, you’ve got to run the ball,” Holly coach Manuel Gonzales said. “The kids have spent a lot of time in the weight room and it’s paid. off. We’re a run-oriented team, and the kids love to run the ball.”

The Saints defense will be looking at very similar offense to Genoa-Hugo’s in the Wildcats. The are led by sophomore quarterback Angel Pecina, who had 650 yards on 71 carries. Kole Neugebauer, the sophomore tailback, leads the Wildcats, with 810 yards in 90 carries. And, in the second half of the season, he’s been joined by fullback Jace Cathart, who rumbled 325 yards after missing the first few games of the season with a shoulder injury.

Holly features a big front line, all weighing more than 200 pounds. The center is Brandon Sherwood (205 pounds) and the guards are Patrick Steward (210) and Mike Hartshorn (250). You do not need to be football analyst to assume that the Wildcats will be running behind Hartshorn.

That having been said, Holly’s size advantage will not necessarily roll just roll the Saints.

“It think it would be (an advantage) for a little while,” Gonzales said. “But Vail Christian runs good routes. They’re well-coached. Their passing game offset Genoa-Hugo’s running game, and the same thing could happen to us.”

The Saints certainly wouldn’t mind that.

Keys for the Saints

First, the Saints simply cannot give up 52 points again. (When you pick up the Vail Daily, you get this sort of insightful sports analysis.)

“First of all, you have to tackle better. They’re licking their chops with that,” Isbell said. “We didn’t tackle well. Then, we broke down a couple of other areas inside. But, I think, we’ve got that taken care of.”

Two things might have contributed to last Saturday’s track meet. One, the Saints’ starters hadn’t played a full game since Sept. 20 vs. Silver State.

“That was the first, full game we’ve played in two months (sic). I think that hurt us a lot,” Saints linebacker Nate Simon said. “At the half, we were like, “We still have half a game left?’ But, we’re ready for this. We’re definitely conditioned and prepared for a full game. It kind of hit us by surprise.”

Second of all, coming out of the Central League, the Saints just hadn’t seen a quality running game.

“Last week was a new look for our line,” fellow linebacker McGee said. “We haven’t seen teams like this in our league. It goes back to the fundamental stuff of staying low, and keeping your hands inside.”

Offensively, the Saints shook the rust off their game. After a sluggish first half, where their timing was clearly off, quarterback P.J. Bevan and company cranked out 44 points in the second half, looking much more like their normal selves.

“Offensively, we’ve got to get the ball into the hands who really make things happen. – P.J., Rex (Roberts), Robbie (Brgoch), Nate (Simon) and Kyle (Morris),” Isbell said. “We’ve got some weapons there. We’ve got to get them into a position to operate.”

News and notes

Vail Christian leaves Friday at 9 a.m., and will try to get to Lamar High School by around 4:30 to have a normal-timed walk through, as the Saints do before a home game. They’ll spend the night in Lamar, which is a half-hour from Holly. … Like Vail Christian, the playoffs are a new experience for the Wildcats. According to coach Gonzales, the school has been “pushing 20 years” since the Wildcats last made the playoffs. … Holly’s road the playoff was a complicated one. The Wildcats finished in a three-way tie with Wiley and Springfield for the Arkansas Valley’s second and final spot. They participated in a “California Playoff,” the Tuesday before the first round. The Wildcats beat Springfield, 18-0, and Wiley, 22-7, in 24-minute games. Once qualified, Holly went out and upset Simla, 14-6. … If you’re looking for an omen for Saturday’s game, Saturday, Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day. .. And, if that doesn’t work for you, well, just click your heels together and say, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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