ERIE — Triston Berringer and Elijah Roper probably won’t handle the football very much this season, but even they are excited about what is transpiring.
The Erie seniors largely make their living on the defensive side of the ball as beastly linebackers and are among the Tigers’ alpha personalities. And they have noticed a clear shift in the aura at camp this season.
Chris Summers has taken over as head coach, which means things are a little different. While Larry Gartrell’s ball-control attack worked wonders for the better part of two decades, Erie’s passing game now will see the light of day.
“We’ve always had the athletes to run a spread offense,” Berringer said. “I think a lot of people are excited to see what we can do this year, because we’re going to be something special.”
Erie will have to replace 1,000-yard backs Joe Ramey and Christian Mickey from last season’s solid 6-3 squad, and the quarterback position is still being sorted out among five competitors. But the Tigers have a forward-thinking mentality.
“The new program is to the next level, really,” Roper said. “All the competition has stepped up and everyone’s been performing a lot better.”
The candidates for the quarterback job include longtime running back B.J. Jensen, now a senior, junior Chantz Schenbeck and three sophomores: Ruben Portillo, Jimmy Martinez and Tim Kan.
The Tigers, who open next week at home against Glenwood Springs, also have fierce competition at running back and are generally deep at the skill positions. And nowadays, earning a receiver job is a bit more prestigious than it used to be.
“I’ve said it for years that there are tough and talented kids here at Erie,” said Summers, a longtime assistant at Holy Family. “The kids are excited, because we’re going to spread it out a bit. We’re pretty much a balanced offense now. We’ll run when we need to and we’ll pass when we need to.”
Although much of the talk at camp is related to the implementation of the new offense, the Tigers’ strength appears to be on defense, particularly with the linebackers. Roper led the team with 78 tackles last season (56 solo) and Berringer was third with 49, including 31 solo stops.
Roper said the Tigers are tougher as a whole this season because of a ramped-up lifting program. He hopes that equates to more tackles.
“I just have to go out with the same aggressiveness and try to get my nose in there on every play,” Roper said. “I’m just going to come in with the new techniques we’ve been taught in the new system, and use that drive and do same thing this year — and lead again, hopefully.”
The running back competition features many, including Jensen (if he’s not the QB), sophomore David Unruh, junior Diego Sanchez and move-in transfer Cooper Bartholomew.
The Tigers are embracing Summers’ new system, but definitely don’t want to forget about their achievements of the past. With many of the same athletes still in the fold, Erie qualified for the Class 3A playoffs two seasons ago and narrowly missed last season.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a new regime,” Berringer said. “It’s not a new start because we’ve had all the guys, all the teammates around forever. It’s just a new focus, a new energy, and we’re determined to make a run far into the playoffs this year.”
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