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Coal Ridge football preview: Titans don’t expect any gimmies

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent
Brandon Herrera (4) holds onto the ball as Jacx Powers (31) tries to strip it out of his hands during practice at Coal Ridge High School on Aug. 13. The Titans will host a preseason scrimmage on Aug. 22 before opening their season Aug. 30 at home against Dolores.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

COAL RIDGE TITANS

Head Coach: Kyle Sager (Third season)

Last Season: 1-8 overall, 1-6 Class 2A Western Slope League, no postseason

Returning Starters, Offense/Defense: 7/6

Base Formations, Offense/Defense: Twin set, single back/3-4

Key Returners: Max Bettle, Sr., WR/LB, 5-10, 160; Brandon Gray, Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 225; Jared Duran, Sr., RB/DB, 5-6, 150; Tyler Sheerin, Sr., WR/DB, 5-8, 160; Jesse Duplefys, Soph., OL/DL, 5-11, 230.

Could Make A Splash: Rudy Devora, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 250; Colton Ellis, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 185; Brandon Salazar, Sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 165.

Potential Key Games: One is Sept. 19 vs. Olathe, which is the Titans’ last non-conference game. Sager is also anxious to face league newcomers Moffat County, Roaring Fork, and Battle Mountain.

P EACH VALLEY — As third-year Coal Ridge High School football coach Kyle Sager was working with his lineman during the second instructional session of the new season on Aug. 12, his commanding voice could be heard loud and clear throughout the practice field. The message on the back of his T-shirt spoke at a high volume also: “The enemy thanks you for not giving 100 percent today.”

Sager’s practice attire is a constant reminder to his team of what he expects of them every time they take to the gridiron this season.

“We have to be focused, very team oriented, and we have to be the hardest-working team on the Western Slope. We will have to earn everything,” Sager said.

With seven starters back on the offensive side of the football and six back on the defense, Sager may have some talent to go with the work ethic he has instilled in the 43 young Titans who showed up the first night of practice on Aug. 11.

Leading the way for the Coal Ridge defense will be seniors Max Bettle, who is a returning all-league linebacker, and 6-foot-4, 225-pound Brandon Gray, who will anchor both the offensive and defensive interior for the Titans.

Bettle will also line up at wide receiver when Coal Ridge has the football. But both senior leaders say that defense is not only their forte, but their passion as well.

“I love playing defense. It’s the heart of the team,” Bettle said. “For us to be successful, our defense has to be the best in the league, absolutely shutdown. We have the talent to do that with these seniors.”

Gray echoed similar sentiments: “I like to fly around and hit people,” said the towering senior. “If we play together as a team, we’re going to be fine.”

Getting the Titans closer to fine, especially on the offensive side of the ball, will be the winner of the battle for the starting quarterback position. The battle for that spot is what coach Sager says is a four-man race.

“Our quarterback position is an intense competition. We have four kids competing for one spot,” Sager said.

The candidates to line up behind center on opening day, Aug. 30 at home against Dolores, are seniors Ben Gross and Tyler Sheerin, with sophomores Jackson Sargent and Tripper Gore right on their heels.

The identity of the Titans’ offense will hinge on who wins the quarterback battle and the ability of that person to play well enough to keep a stranglehold on the job.

The 2013 version of the Titan football squad had the speed to compete, but was lacking a bit in the trenches. This season, Sager feels his team can muscle with anyone as sophomore Jesse Duplefys and senior Rudy Devora join Gray on what should be a granite-like offensive and defensive line.

Senior Jared Duran will get the bulk of the carries when the Titans run the football. Colton Ellis, Brandon Salazar, Bettle, and possibly Sheerin, will provide very capable receiving targets when Coal Ridge goes to the air.

Sager is cautiously optimistic about his 2014 charges, but he does have the look of a man who feels his team can line up with anyone in the 2A Western Slope League North.

“I hate to make predictions, because we have to perform on the field,” he said. “But we will always strive to win our conference and be one of the best teams on the Western Slope.”

sports@postindependent.com


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