Vail Christian puts six players on all-league squad
Vail, CO Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado ” No one in the Central League could stop the juggernaut Vail Christian football team this season.
The Saints’ (6-2) historic season included a 6-0 league record, and their first Central League title since 2003. It’s only fitting that Vail Christian led its rivals with six first team all-league selections. Two more Saints earned honorable-mention recognition.
“It was a cool season to experience,” Vail Christian coach Tim Pierson said. “A league championship is a rewarding thing. It was a lot of fun.”
In league play, Vail Christian dominated both sides of the ball. On offense, the Saints averaged a whopping 42 points per game in the regular season. The defense was equally as effecting, allowing only 12 points per game in the regular season.
Those numbers shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Vail Christian was loaded with talented two-way players. A.J. Burgess, Chris Schmidt, Will Parker, Elliot Ristow, Kieran Hurtt and Steil Beagley were named first team all-league for their efforts this season. Larry Cavanaugh and Kelly Lowry received honorable-mention selections.
Potent rushing attack
Unlike many teams who run the ball to keep possession and wear down an opposing defense, the Saints handed the ball to their playmakers hoping to score each time. Vail Christian’s quick-strike rushing attack left opponents winded.
Of course, it helps to have the likes of Burgess, Parker and Ristow in the backfield. Burgess and Parker made a living this season on an inside counter play that was a threat to go the distance every time it was called.
Ristow’s selection as first team all-league is a special honor for the Saints. The senior found early success on the ground before suffering a severe leg injury against Marantha Christian on Sept. 19.
“Elliot has a lot of respect from the coaches around the league,” Pierson said. “It’s honor for him.”
Don’t forget the big guys
In front of every quality stable of running backs is a stellar offensive line. That’s where Hurtt, Beagley and Lowry paved the way for easy scores this season. Hurtt’s versatility allowed Pierson to have him lead block, or even catch the occasional 2-point conversion.
Beagley played a similar role as Hurtt. Both were dynamic threats on offense and tackling machines on defense.
“I think the counter play we ran really speaks for our two guards,” Pierson said. “Kieran and Steil could pull and get there real quick.”
One of the toughest positions on the Vail Christian roster was manned by Lowry. As a center, Lowry was responsible for the shotgun-snap the Saints used on nearly every play. He handled the pressure with relative ease.
The curse is dead
Entering the 2008 season, Vail Christian was just hoping to keep a quarterback healthy. After two seasons of fighting injuries at the position, Cavanaugh gave the Saints stability.
More often than not, Cavanaugh went to his favorite target, Schmidt, to pick of chunks of yards through the air. The two continued to get better as the season progressed.
“Looking back, I wish would have gotten the ball to Chris a little more,” Pierson said. “He’s such a weapon.
“Larry could buy some time with his elusiveness. With his size, he’s not easy to take down. He has a good head on shoulders, that’s what you look for in a quarterback.”
Cavanaugh, Hurtt and Beagley will be back for Vail Christian next season. Burgess, Parker, Ristow and Lowry will leave big shoes to fill as graduating seniors.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.