Vail Christian hopes to rebound from early losses |

Vail Christian hopes to rebound from early losses

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCoach Paul Gruber watches as Vail Christian football players practice plays Friday during pratice at Miller Ranch Field in Edwards.

EDWARDS – A sling and a pair of crutches are not good signs for a football team in preseason.It doesn’t make it any easier when the starting quarterback and running back are using them.This is the challenge the 8-man Vail Christian Saints must overcome as they start their second season under the tutelage of Tim Pierson.”When there’s adversity, you have to respond to it,” Pierson said. “You have a choice, you can sit around and mope and say what if, or you can rise to the occasion. We don’t know whose stepping up yet, but we are excited to find out.”Last year’s quarterback Jon Armstead is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and may not return at all to the gridiron for his senior year.”I had so many expectations this year, and now I have this sling on my arm,” said Armstead. Oliver Ristow is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury, putting another hole in the backfield. Two potential contributors, Josh Glandorf and Jordan Foster, both transferred. The team lost two great seniors from last year in Jamie Graef and Kyle Bruntz.”Can you replace a Jon Armstead and an Oliver Ristow?” said Josh Sibley. “We are doing our best. It’s just hard seeing two of our best players on the team go down this early in the season.

Sophomore Jaryd Francis will switch from wide receiver to quarterback and junior Bjorn Bauer will take Ristow’s place for the time being.”Bjorn Bauer can do pretty much everything Oliver can, but we just don’t have those two bash brothers in the backfield,” Jake Blair said.Putting up pointsTwo offensive weapons may be out, but Pierson thinks the attack will still be quite potent. The Saints will run an option spread, which could work well with Francis at quarterback.”He’s a big boy at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and runs a 4.9 40-meter dash,” Pierson said.Pierson says he expects to pass 80 percent of the time and hopes to incorporate a no-huddle set by next week. With Francis at quarterback, the team looses a quality receiver, but Pierson is not too worried about establishing the passing game.”We have two receivers who are 6-foot-4, and 6-foot-5,” Pierson said. “We just don’t have the depth we had before at receiver.”John Romero will step in as a wing receiver and Caleb Pearson will be the split end. Sibley returns to the tight end spot to round out the receivers.

Sibley thinks that even with the offense emphasizing the pass, a lot of weight is going to fall on Bauer’s shoulders, which is fine.”When that kid puts his head down and runs, he’s going to be hard to stop,” Sibley said.The offensive line shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping up with Bauer.”Nobody ran over a 5.3 40 (meter dash),” Pierson said. “We are not very strong as some other teams, but we are more athletic up front.” Lined up at center is Tommy Peskorz, with Chase Gruber at left guard and Blair at right guard. Boxed upAfter using a 3-2-2 defense last year, the Saints are moving to a 4-1-3 scheme.”Too many people run in our league,'” Pierson said. “We have a little more depth in the secondary, so we want to put the game in the hands of a quarterback rather than a good running back.”

Up front, Vail Christian will have Blair and Peskorz at tackle with Pearson and Bauer at end. Chase Gruber will serve as the sole linebacker. Blake Gruber and Romero will play close coverage at cornerback. The last line of defense will be Francis at safety. While some coaches shy away from using their quarterback as safety, Pierson is optimistic about using Francis on defense.”He’s the best tackler on the team,” Pierson said. “He likes to hit people, and we are using him as a lead blocker on some plays.”Most of the players are solid tacklers, which should help limit opposing yardage.”We like to hit a lot and we’ve got some hard hitters on the team,” Blair said. All Saints except for Sibley and Blake Gruber are playing on both sides of the ball.”Depth is kind of an issue,” Sibley said. “I just hope we have no more injuries.”Other eight’sWhile bad luck may have befallen the Saints as far as injuries, their schedule could prove to be an advantage. The last three games of the season are against the toughest opponents, Silver State, Longmont Christian, and North Park, and by then the injured could to return, or the starters will have considerable experience.

North Park returns just about all of their players.”They only lost one kid, a quarterback, who didn’t even play against us when we played them last year,” Blair said. “They are a big threat.” Even with the losses from last year’s squad, the Saints still believe they can produce a winning record.”I would have to say (our goal) is to make the top three in our league,” Sibley said. Pierson sees the solid systems and good athletes as the key to earning wins. “On offense, we’ll score a lot of points. We’ll make our opponents respect our quarterback’s learning ability, and make them guard sideline to sideline,” Pierson said. “Defensively, we’re going to make them hurt. If they want to run, and be stubborn there, we’re going to match up with them.”Today the Saints will see how their systems and players work together in a scrimmage against North Park, Norwood and DeBeque at DeBequeSports writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608 or via icropp@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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