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Saints hope to defend title

Preston Utley/Vail Daily Vail Christian senior Jamie Graef works on catching the ball during practice on Wednesday.
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EDWARDS – For Vail Christian 8-man football, the coach is new, sans a Texas accent.The players are new. The helmets are new. The home stadium is new – please, no jokes about the Saints playing at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum.But, one thing remains a constant. Winning seems to be contagious. Though 12 seniors graduated from last year’s 9-1 Central League champions, the young ‘uns seem to want to take the torch and run with it in 2004.”The expectations were set high,” tight end/defensive end Josh Sibley said. “It’s a good thing, but the seniors moved on last year, and it’s our team now. We’ve got to prove what we’re going to do. We should still do pretty well in our league. We should definitely be one of the top teams in our league.”The 2003 Saints crushed everything and anything on their way to the school’s first Central League title. After an 8-0 regular season, Vail Christian won its first playoff game over Genoa-Hugo, 64-52. We’re talking a pretty high bar here.”It definitely puts a lot of pressure on us,” quarterback Jonathan Armstead said. “It’s a good thing. I was glad I was a part of it. I don’t know anything about the other teams, but definitely a winning season. I really do think we can get as far as we did last year.”Tim Pierson will lead the Saints this year, taking the reins from Bob Isbell, who built the program. A Battle Mountain alum (1997), Pierson played for Isbell in Eagle-Vail and coached with him at Vail Christian.

“We’re just going to go out and have fun and hit some people,” Pierson said. “We’ll definitely surprise our league this year. They’ll see that we have 12 seniors gone, and I think some teams are going to be gunning for us. But I think, we’re out to defend that league title.”Offense and defenseIn 8-man football, the basic strategy is simple. On offense, go wide and rumble. On defense, prevent the other team from doing the same. Pierson is using Isbell’s playbook for both. On offense, expect the same wide-open style, which produced 406 points last year.”We’ll try to hit you everywhere,” Pierson said. “We’re going to try to get to the outside and utilize the wide side of the field. We’re going to try to go off tackle, counter and bootleg and sprint out. Our idea is to throw the ball to set up the run. We’re a pass-first, run-second team, but we’ll run the ball.”

Armstead will lead the three-ring circus on offense. He has speed to burn in receivers Sibley and Jamie Graef. Armstead, like his predecessor, P.J. Bevan, will be running a lot. In fact, he’s also listed as a back, if Pierson decides to sub in Josh Glandorf under center.Bjorn Bauer and freshman Jaryd Francis, who’s turned eyes with a big camp, will be in the backfield. They’re running behind center Kyle Bruntz and guards Jake Blair and Oliver Ristow.On the other side of the ball, Blair is the nose guard. Sibley’s locked down a spot at defensive end and Ben Sack, the best name for a defensive lineman ever, and Caleb Pearson are battling for the job on the other side.Armstead will play safety, while Graef and Francis are on the corners. At linebacker, it’s Ristow and Bruntz.Leadership Speaking of Bruntz, he is the lone returning starter from last year’s team. Though he is one of four captains along with Armstead, Graef and Sibley, he’s going to have to shoulder the load because he’s been there before.”He’s the only returning starter and the only guy who contributed on varsity last year,” Pierson said. “He’s the only guy coming back with experience. I hope he brings a lot.”



Judging by last season, Coach, that’s the least of your worries. Overshadowed by sack-meister Andreas Bauer, Bruntz was a steady presence all year long. This year he’s decided to emulate a pretty decent former Saint.”I’m following after John McGee, how he led the team last year,” Bruntz said. “He had pretty much the exact same position as I’m doing this year. I’m taking after past seniors and their leadership.”Also, the team’s other upperclassmen are stepping in.”We went from having 12 seniors and now we have three seniors,” Pierson said. “Those three seniors have done a nice job leading. We have outstanding leadership coming out of the junior class. There’s a core group in that class that is stepping up nicely.”New-look leagueYou need a program to know the players in the Central League. Westland Christian and Maranatha Christian are out. Enter DeBeque, Christian Fellowship and Resurrection Christian.DeBeque and Christian Fellowship figure to strengthen the league.

The former went 3-5 against a tough independent schedule last season. Resurrection went 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain League.Then, there are traditional Central League contenders like Silver State, ranked No. 8 in the Rocky Mountain News, and North Park. The Saints play North Park on the final week of the season, a game which could be critical for both team’s postseason hopes.Vail Christian opens Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Eagle Valley against Academy of Charter, and after weeks of practice, the Saints are ready to go.”We just had a scrimmage the other day and we knocked the stuffing out of each other,” Armstead said. “A few people got hurt. I think everybody’s really excited and everybody else is really nervous. I’m about half-and-half.”Extra pointsAll of Vail Christian’s home games are at Eagle Valley. Steven Glandorf will be behind the mic. … Homecoming is Oct. 2 vs. Gilpin County. … Pat Phelan, you have to go to work today. … The volleyball team, which will be profiled in Friday’s paper, goes out to watch the football team train before its practice, which starts at 5 p.m. Props to spikers Rachel Glandorf and Lauren Mutter for their parking lot stunt. But, be careful. I’m good at pranks.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or via cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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