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Holy Family High School's Will Nolan (No. 31) kicks the ball held by Rylan Cooney (No. 8) for a point after touchdown against Frederick High School on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Holy Family High School’s Will Nolan (No. 31) kicks the ball held by Rylan Cooney (No. 8) for a point after touchdown against Frederick High School on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

This summer, will take an early look at each area football team ahead of the fall season and in this installment, we look at the Holy Family Tigers.

Holy Family football relied heavily on a large senior class in 2021 and will be looking toward new talent to lead it into the upcoming season.

Last year, the Tigers earned their way to a No. 8 bid in the Class 3A state playoffs, where they subsequently dominated No. 9 Pueblo South, 34-18, before having the displeasure of facing off with top-seeded and undefeated Roosevelt in the second round.

Their season ended in a high-scoring affair as they bid farewell to 23 senior leaders. The Tigers are eager to continue the success they’ve seen as of late, starting with the 2020 season that saw them carry an unblemished record into the state semifinals.

Holy Family returns a stud junior quarterback in Rylan Cooney, who collected 1,865 passing yards on 106 completions with 19 touchdowns as an underclassman last year.

The Tigers will need to make up for some skill lost on the rushing and receiving end but will have a strong special teams presence in senior placekicker Will Nolan, who nailed 31 of his 34 PATs as a junior and made all four field goal attempts.

They’ll have some help in transitioning to a brand new team that will be filled with many new faces.

The Stalwart

Senior Jace Gunderson. Gunderson has spent his past two seasons working his way up the ladder before starting every game at safety as a junior. His strong football IQ has helped solidify the defense around him, and the Tigers will rely on that presence as he takes on more of a leadership role for 2022.

“He is highly intelligent and ensures our defense is aligned correctly on the back end each play,” head coach Mike Gabriel said.

Star in the making

Senior Chase McNaughton. McNaughton will look to take on a heightened role during his final high school season after serving as a rotational player at running back in 2021. Gabriel predicts that he’ll see a great number of touches during the upcoming slate, especially after learning to impose a more physical presence on the field toward the end of his junior season.

“He is a burner and can explode in the open with the ball,” Gabriel said.

Solidifying a presence

The Tigers are hungry to prove they belong, and that has started in the weight room this offseason. The boys are looking to make up for a smaller senior class — just 17 boys in all — by adding extra muscle mass. In doing so, they hope to fall in line with the successes the last two teams have made and believe they have the right manpower to do it.

“The past two seasons, we have won our league and made it to the semifinals and the quarterfinals, respectively, and this group hopes to repeat as league champs and make a playoff run again this season,” Gabriel said.

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