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BROOMFIELD — Life without Chris Helbig on the football field has given the Holy Family Tigers a slightly different identity ... at least in the eyes of the rest of the state.

And what they don't know, could hurt them.

Despite their top 10 ranking all season that never dropped below No. 6, the Tigers will start their playoff run on the road this Saturday against Evergreen at Trailblazer Stadium as No. 10 seed.

"We kind of saw it coming," Holy Family coach Mike Gabriel said.

The Helbig injury may very well have factored into the seeding in the committee's eyes, but at this point in the season, it doesn't really matter and in order to get to where you want to go you have to beat the teams in front of you anyway.

In has stepped freshman quarterback Stone Samaras and while the playbook has had to be toned down since the injury, Gabriel and his staff have slowly added more and more to his plate. A scary thought considering he threw for over 370 yards and five touchdowns in the season finale at Northridge last week.

"(Stone) has the confidence and he has an air about him and he can do it," said Gabriel after that game. "This is all they have talked about for 365 days, is that opportunity to get back there and get back after it."

Making things a little bit easier for Samaras in coach Matt Brothers' offense is the multitude of weapons at his disposal. Lost in the Samaras' big game last week was the 200 yard effort of running back Michael Zeman.


Zeman went over the 1,000 yard mark last week. He joins receivers Bryce Buderus (60 catches, 1,046 yards) and Joey Golter (58 for 1,219) as big play threats for the Tigers. Throw in Kyle Helbig, Travis Montoya and A.J. Giron in the mix and it makes it difficult for a defense to cover everybody.

The offensive line has been steady and some of the wrinkles of responsibility Gabriel has thrown at his boys have come in the form of blocking and blitz pick-up.

"These are intelligent kids and they just eat up anything you give them," Gabriel said. "We've mixed in quite a bit more this week, but Chris directed Mikey (Zeman) where to go on blitz control and now Mike and whoever else is in there, those guys are going to have to figure it out on their own."

The monkey on the back of the Tigers program is their inability to get out of the first round. The Tigers have faced an early exit in each of the past four season, possibly none more excruciating than in 2013 at the hands of Delta in overtime. Holy Family last advanced to the second round in 2009.

"We address the same way every season and we get to the end of the season and nothing really matters anymore," Gabriel said. "All the records and the accolades kind of move to the wayside."

Jon Yunt: or