Vail Christian hopes for offensive fireworks |

Vail Christian hopes for offensive fireworks

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT VC Football 01 TS 08-27-08

EDWARDS, Colorado ” Football purists who enjoy the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality should probably avoid Vail Christian games this season. The Saints plan on spreading the field and flinging the football all over.

Vail Christian coach Tim Pierson installed a new offensive scheme for the 2008 season, hoping to build on last year’s 4-5 record and first-round playoff exit. Fans will get their first look at the new attack on Saturday when the Saints play their first game at Plateau Valley.

“It’s a wide-open, fun offense,” Pierson said. “There is a lot of misdirection in the running game, whether it’s the sweeps or the counter. Then there is the quick-passing game to complement it.”

If Wednesday’s practice is any indication, Vail Christian plans to use the shotgun set almost exclusively this season. The quarterback lines up five yards behind center, giving him a better view of his multiple receivers. After the snap, it doesn’t take long for the signal-caller to heave a pass toward one of his wideouts.

The attack is meant to show off the Saints’ speed. A.J. Burgess and Chris Schmidt lead a group of receivers who hope to get their hands on the ball. Out of the backfield, Pierson will have a number of options for running plays, including Elliot Ristow.

“We have good speed and ability at our skill positions,” Pierson said. “We are trying to spread the field and get the ball to those guys. Getting our timing down with our quick passing series is real important right now.”

Unfortunately, injuries at the quarterback position continue to plague Vail Christian. Last season, starter Larry Cavanaugh broke his collar bone in the opener and missed the rest of the season. Elliot Simon filled in admirably in his absence, giving Pierson two options at QB this year.

That is if the duo were healthy. Both Cavanaugh and Simon have been nicked up during preseason practice. Simon is expected to start on Saturday, but Cavanaugh won’t see the field for at least another week. Reserve Guy Garth could also see snaps against Plateau Valley.

“We have a curse on the quarterback,” Burgess joked.

When the quarterbacks are in the lineup, they should be buoyed by a strong offensive line. Three-year starter Kieran Hurtt anchors the front. Senior Kelly Lowry ” who stands 6-foot-3, 210 pounds ” is also back .

Strong defense returns

A lot of the same standouts from the offensive side of the ball will also star on defense. The Saints will play a 3-3-2 alignment with Hurtt providing the bulk in the trenches. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior is slotted for nose guard.

“Kieran Hurtt is the big kid on the field, bashing heads,” Burgess said. “He’s one of our strengths.”

Joining Hurtt on the d-line is Steil Beagley and Devan Christie. The linebacker core lost Chase Gruber from last season, but Simon, Garth and Ristow are ready to fill the hole. In the secondary, Burgess and Schmidt will roam the field in Vail Christian’s cover-two schemes.

“On defense, our main strength is speed,” Pierson said.

Title dreams

Last season, the Saints finished in fourth place in the Central League standings behind Silver State, Nederland and Marantha. Silver State won the title last year, but the Patriots lost a lot of talent. Vail Christian only lost to Nederland and Marantha by a combined 15 points.

So what’s it all mean? With all the returning athletes the Saints possess, they should be right in the thick of the championship hunt.

“The league is prime for us to go out and win it,” Pierson said. “We need to execute. We need to stay healthy. We need to get better every week. I think it is just of matter of keeping an eye on the prize and focusing.”

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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