Vail Christian picks up snappy win
GYPSUM – The Vail Christian 8-man football team’s season opener against Academy of Charter was a snap Saturday.Actually, it was a matter of a few key snaps and finally successfully snapping the ball. In a driving rain in Gypsum, Vail Christian overcame snap problems and the Blue Crush defense was huge, producing seven turnovers as the Saints came out with a 26-11 win over the visiting Wildcats.The defense’s biggest moment came at the start of the fourth quarter with the Saints hanging onto a 20-11 lead. Charter was sitting on the door step – first-and-goal on the Saints’ 5. Four snaps and the Wildcats got nothing as the entire Saints defense smothered the Wildcats running back John Runnels and quarterback Matt Odeaga.”We finally started playing low. Our guards got low,” said Saints head coach Tim Pierson, who got his first coaching victory. “They were playing high most of the game. They dove off and did a nice job. Those linebackers did a nice job. They filled nicely. We sent them on blasts into the B-gap both times and they ran iso right there. That helped out. They ran it right where we were going. We guessed right.”Going for itOn Vail Christian’s ensuing possession, the Saints faced another crucial snap – fourth-and-one from their own 14. Pierson sent the offense out and the gamble paid off big time. Saints quarterback Jonathan Armstead called his own number. Not only did he get the first down, but he flew 86 yards for the touchdown.Game over.
“It was fourth-and-inches. We were just trying to get an inch or something,” Armstead said. “I made one cut. One of their linebackers fell down and I ran for 86 yards. I was like, ‘I cannot believe this happened.'”Pierson had no hesitation when he made the decision to go for it.”We’re under a yard,” he said. “I felt it was just a little bit and our defense had that goal line stand the series before. I had faith in our defense if we didn’t get it. It was only a little bit. We wanted to let our best runner get it and just go.”Slip, sliding awayThat was one of just a few big plays that the normally explosive Vail Christian offense made Saturday. The pouring rain made life tough for both offenses. In the first half, just about every Vail Christian snap in its shotgun offense was an adventure.”This weather really killed us,” Pierson said. “We hadn’t had rain in a long time. The month of August was pretty dry. So, we didn’t get practice snapping wet balls out of our shotgun. That really affected us in the first half. When we’re second-and-17 because we miss a snap, it throws us out of our rhythm. We’re just happy to get out of here with a win.”But, the Vail Christian defense didn’t seem to mind the rain. In the first quarter, Josh Sibley recovered the first of his three turnover, picking up a fumble on the Wildcats’ 24. Freshman Jaryd Francis capitalized with a 28-yard scamper and the Saints went up, 6-0.
While the Saints’ offense was stalling, Sibley stopped another Charter drive with a fumble recovery and James Graef intercepted Odeaga to keep the Wildcats at bay.Charter finally broke through with 2:36 left in the half on a 5-yard run by Odeaga and the conversion gave the visitors an 8-6 lead. The Wildcats added a field goal for an 11-8 halftime advantage.Steal by SibleyIn the second half, Vail Christian got it together. The Saints need just two minutes to retake the lead. Josh Glandorf connected with Armstead on two big passes and then Bjorn Bauer rumbled in from five yards.On their next possession, the Saints went three-and-out, but Sibley booted a corner-coffin punt, which pinned the Wildcats on their own 2. On second-and-seven from the Wildcats’ 7, Sibley broke into the backfield and slapped away Odeaga’s option pitch. Sibley fell on the ball in the end zone and Vail Christian was up, 20-11.”I just saw the quarterback rolling out,” Sibley said. “I got to take away the lateral. It’s cool to jazz up my team.”The coach was jazzed, too.
“We talked in pregame on Friday that players need to make plays and that’s what it’s all about,” Pierson said.Charter would drive only to be stopped by the Blue Crush, who open league play next week at Christian Fellowship.”That first win under your belt is nice,” Pierson said. “The pressure’s off and we’re just going to go in and get better in a hurry. We’re traveling next week. It’s league play. We’ve got to step up. We have to play a lot better than we did today.”Doubtless, the Saints will snap to it.Extra pointsArmstead led all rushers with 104 yards on 11 carries. Runnels led the Wildcats with 22 rushes for 81 yards. … Freshman Francis had two picks as the Saints were plus-six in the turnover category. … Around the Central League: Silver State 42, Resurrection Christian 20; North Park 48, Gilpin County 0 and Longmont Christian 24, DeBeque 0 … Props to center Kyle Bruntz to adjusting to the conditions on snaps in the second half.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or firstname.lastname@example.org.