Pioneers still adjusting to new classification

Danny Summers
Posted

CRIPPLE CREEK - A 66-24 loss to Swink on Sept. 22 showed that transition to 8-man football hasn’t exactly been smooth for the Cripple Creek-Victor football team.

In a Homecoming game played at Dial Field, the host Pioneers trailed 29-6 midway through the first quarter, and 54-6 at halftime. Cripple Creek-Victor won the second half, however, outscoring the Lions 18-12.

“The kids aren’t quitting,” said Pioneers coach Jim Bertrand. “They’re staying positive. They’re playing to the end.”

The Pioneers (0-4, 0-1 in the 8-man Southern League), were simply out manned by Swink (3-1, 1-0). Cripple Creek-Victor senior quarterback Cale Brown was running for his life much of the day. That left him little time to look for senior wide receiver Chris Irelan. The two finally hooked up on a 66-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Irelan, a transfer from Wheat Ridge, also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

“Chris missed our first two games with an injury,” Bertrand said. “It’s nice to have him in there. He’s a real asset to our team.”

Brown, who missed time this season with a shoulder injury, scored the Pioneers’ other two touchdowns. He had a 17-yard scamper into the end zone on a broken play in the first quarter. He galloped 15 yards to pay dirt in the third quarter.

Cripple Creek-Victor’s run game was stuffed for the most part. Brown had just 5 yards on three other carries. Junior tailback Scott Cain had 28 yards on 11 carries, while senior tailback Darren Caddy managed 14 yards on four attempts.

It’s not for a lack of trying that the Pioneers are finding things rough this season. Bertrand believes the transition from 11-man to 8-man comes with challenges.

“We’re the new kids on the block,” he said. “Our learning curve is straight up in the air.”

The field is a normal 100 yards long in 8-man, but it is just 40 yards wide, compared to 53 yards.

“It’s a quick moving game,” Bertrand said. “It’s a wide open game. It’s an adjustment for the kids and an adjustment for me, too.”

The work in progress has the Pioneers using multiple set offenses and various blocking schemes.

“We’re trying to speed up the game a little bit,” Bertrand said. “We need to push a little bit to see what happens.”

The offensive line includes sophomore center Zion Dickerson (5-foot-7, 164 pounds), sophomore tackle Toby Wuellner (6-foot, 180) and freshman tackle Stephen Cano (5-6, 150) and sophomore tight end Cody Rice (6-foot, 160). Junior Maggie Steele (5-7, 130) has seen some time at wide receiver.

“Maggie’s been in there on some special team’s plays and short plays,” Bertrand said. “I don’t want to get her killed.”

The defense is led by Irelan, Caddy and Cain as defensive backs, and Brown at middle linebacker. Other players who see a lot of time include senior safety Brandon Oxley (5-10, 130) and down linemen sophomore Tyler Regester (6-1, 152) and junior Zach Regester (6-1, 193).

“A lot of our problem has been open field tackling,” Bertrand said.

The Pioneers have allowed at least two touchdowns on kickoffs each game.

Cripple Creek-Victor travels to Fowler for a Friday game starting at 7 p.m. That’s followed by a game at Manzanola on Oct. 5. The Pioneers finish the regular season with home games against Hoehne (Oct. 15) and McClave (Oct. 27).