ERIE — With repair crews on their football surface on a daily basis, Erie football players are trying to plug along in business-as-usual fashion.
It’s a tough task when oversized, multifaceted trucks replete with vacuum-style hoses and other gadgets are on the field you’re supposed to be practicing on.
While school officials sort out when the Tigers again will be permitted to use the turf-based field — the first two home games already have been moved to Mead High School — the football team has shifted practice to a mini-field on the northeast side of the school.
So, other than that, things are pretty normal.
“It’s just a little hiccup in our game,” two-way lineman Jesse Tallman said. “Practicing on grass gives us a chance to work through longer things, so that way when we play on a grass field we can get through that.”
While the Tigers patiently wait out the fate of their primary field, they have no choice but to push forward.
“Every year is a new book,” Erie coach Larry Gartrell said. “We’re just writing the preface of it right now.”
What immediately stands out about the Tigers is that their personnel is suited to what they do best. Erie prides itself on the run game, utilizing a bevy of ball carriers and an attack based on counter-action, misdirection plays. In that respect, the Tigers are in fine shape, because their stable of backs represents their strength.
Joe Ramey (775 yards), Christian Mickey (663), and B.J. Jensen (249) rushed for a combined 19 touchdowns last season, and sophomore Ryan True also is ready to step into the ball-carrier rotation. In addition, senior running back Coltin Brink is back after taking a year off from football.
“We’re going to give it our best and hopefully we get to where we were last year with the running game,” Mickey said. “It’ll be a lot of hard work, but I think our backs can handle it. We’re stacked.”
Erie went 7-4 last season, sneaking into the Class 3A playoffs as the No. 16 seed. That meant a trip to top-ranked Rifle and a 42-0 first-round exit.
The Tigers lost a few key linemen from that squad, including all-staters Connor Conliogue and Tyler David, but tackles Tallman and Andrew Campbell return, as well as tight ends Kody Dotson and Quinton Elkins.
“We don’t have the biggest line in the world, which, running our stuff, it’s not good,” Tallman said. “But when you put a lot of hard work in, we can stick in someone who’s 5-8 and have him block a 300-pound guy.”
While most of the running backs double as defensive backs, junior Triston Berringer will forefront the linebacking corps.
Erie is talented but not very deep. That puts an onus on health, durability, and players performing up to their capabilities.
“It’s inevitable, it’s going to happen to where we have some young kids playing,” Gartrell said. “Whether it’s injury — knock on wood, hopefully not — or eligibility or whatever might happen, it’s a long season. Ten weeks. We’re going to have to have some young kids step in and help us out.”
It’s been an interesting August for the Tigers, who took part in a scrimmage Friday night at Summit. It also included Rifle. For the time being, Erie is trying to block out the external factors that they have no control over and play football.
The Tigers open at Mitchell on Aug. 30 before successive “home” games against Berthoud and Skyline. Those will be played at Mead High School. That is one of the external factors they are trying to overlook as they prepare for the season.
“Camp’s going pretty well,” Tallman said. “We have a lot of hard workers out here and some new guys learning their way. We have some seniors stepping up, and we need to just keep doing what we’re doing.”
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