Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – To Austin Reed, the preseason vibe surrounding Coal Ridge High School’s football program this fall is familiar.
It feels a lot like it did in 2010, when the Titans qualified for the playoffs for the first – and only – time in the school’s young history.
Better yet, Reed says, Coal Ridge is fielding as united a bunch as ever.
“It has that same feel as when I was a sophomore, when we made the state playoffs,” the senior lineman said. “Last year, our seniors were great, but we weren’t a team. Now, we’re not focused on just one person scoring a touchdown for us.”
Coupled with that newfound cohesion is a roster deep in numbers and talent.
“With the upcoming classes, we’re getting a lot more kids out and getting deeper at all positions,” Reed said. “For instance, we have a lot more linemen than we ever have, and they’re better, too. I won’t have to run both sides of the ball the whole game.”
First-year head coach Kyle Sager, an Arizona import, estimated a turnout topping 50 players.
“For a school this size, that’s a really good turnout,” said Sager, a former lineman at the University of San Diego. “We actually had to order more helmets to accommodate everyone.”
Reed, known as “Boulder” among his teammates because smashing into him on the football field is like banging up against a giant rock, is one of several upperclassmen who will lead the Titans in 2012.
Also returning for his senior season is Cole Zywiec, a fullback and inside linebacker who Sager calls “our anchor on both sides of the ball” and “basically the heart of this team.”
Chris Contreras, a junior running back and defensive back with big-time speed, is also back. He logged some varsity experience as a sophomore. That experience proved invaluable for Contreras, who figures to see plenty of carries in 2012.
“I’m not such a newbie coming out this year,” he said. “I kind of know what to expect. I know what level of intensity to bring to these games.”
Senior Michael Shaw, a newcomer with wrestling experience, may also see some work in a backfield that features a variety of running styles.
“We have our options,” said a grinning Sager. “We want to spread the ball, but our bread and butter is going to be the power running game.”
At quarterback, sophomore Brooks Pressler will be the team’s starter. Senior Gunnar Pagni, a captain along with Alex Sanchez, Reed and Zywiec, will also see some snaps at quarterback.
On defense, Sager and his staff are crafting an aggressive attack.
“We’re going to run a 3-4, but our defensive philosophy is that we bring pressure,” he said. “We don’t necessarily need to blitz every down to bring pressure. We’ll play more man than zone and be aggressive in that style. I think these boys are going to like the defense, because we can bring different types of pressure.”
Pressure that will come from a united team.
“I think one of our strengths we have is in our heart,” Contreras said. “Everybody knows in our hearts that we are going to surprise a lot of people in this valley. We feel like a family. These are my brothers.”
Said Zywiec: “I feel like this team can go where no other Coal Ridge team has gone before.”
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