Game weeks for Jay Kersey and his staff begin on the defensive side of the ball.
Kersey, over his 14 years at Colorado Springs Christian School, had seen enough dominant defenses win titles that he decided it was time to join them. So, that’s the where the emphasis has been placed. Preparation for every games starts with Kersey and defensive coordinator Shonn Campbell developing a plan on that side, and defensive work takes up well over half the time on the practice field.
The results speak for themselves. Only 10 teams across the 208 11-man teams in the state have surrendered fewer points (69) than CSCS. In 1A Tri-Peaks play, the Lions have allowed a league-low 31 points in four games.
“When you’ve got 11 guys who are working together it creates a machine,” outside linebacker Ethan Hanks said.
That machine will be tested in a strength-on-strength matchup against Peyton on Friday in the Gazette Preps Game of the Week.
With a win, Peyton (7-1, 4-0 1A Tri-Peaks League) would clinch a league title.
If CSCS (6-2, 3-1) prevails, the league would likely finish in a three-way tie. However, if Buena Vista, which also has one league loss, were to fall in an upset to Rye, the Lions would finish tied only with Peyton and take the title on a head-to-head tiebreaker.
“It’s huge,” said Kersey, whose defense has allowed just 33 points the past six games with three shutouts
And it looks an interesting test of football.
CSCS has produced the stingiest defense in league play, but Peyton features the league's top offense - ranking third among the 40 teams in 1A with 301 points.
Coach Richard Deems runs a double-wing offense that keeps the formations tight, difficult to read and loaded with runners. Tyler Noffsinger (529 rushing yards), Gunner Saarela (438), Josh Gonzales (422) and Trevor Walker (374) have each carried between 56 and 77 times and have at least three touchdowns.
“We’re not huge up front,” Deems said. “We can’t just line up and play Power-I football and just run it right where people know we’re going. We’ve got to confuse them a little bit. We’ve got good athletes and we’ve got good tailbacks in the backfield.”
The coaches at CSCS have certainly noticed.
“They’ve just got weapons everywhere,” Kersey said. “We’ve faced teams where they’ve got one or two kids you know you need to stop. With them it’s this kid and this kid and this kid… all of their skill positions are good athletes.”
Deems, a former All-RMAC safety, hasn’t built this offense at the expense of the defense. The Panthers are one of those 10 aforementioned teams to allow fewer points than CSCS this season (48), though they haven’t been quite a stingy in their four games in league play (CSCS has allowed 31 points, Peyton 35).
CSCS is pinning its hopes on its defense in this game, just as it has – by design – all season.
“We don’t want to let them get into a rhythm,” Kersey said.
PANTHERS-LIONS AT A GLANCE
Game date: Peyton Panthers vs. Colorado Springs Christian School. ... Friday at 7 p.m. at CSCS ... 1A Tri-Peaks League game.
Media: Follow @BrentBriggeman and @HughJohnson707 on Twitter for updates, and follow GazettePreps on Snapchat for exclusive Game of the Week content.
Teams: Peyton (7-1, 4-0) has won five straight and can clinch a league title with a road victory. CSCS (6-2, 3-1) has won back-to-back games and has posted three shutouts in its past six contests. With a win in this regular-season finale, the Lions would, at worst, force a three-way tie atop the league. Peyton would appear to be a lock for the postseason regardless of the outcome. CSCS would land on the bubble with a loss.