8th-graders passionately prepare for next level | SteamboatToday.com

8th-graders passionately prepare for next level

Gantick: Players build skills during transition to high school

Luke Graham

The Steamboat Springs eighth-grade football team finished the season 5-4, but they made progress in preparing for high school football.

— The continuity of a high school football program doesn’t just start at the ninth-grade level.

Evidence of this lies in the Steamboat Springs eighth-grade football team’s season.

Although the team finished 5-4, coach Matt Gantick said wins weren’t necessarily what the season was about.

“One thing was, we were working with coach (Lonn) Clementson, coach (Aaron) Finch, coach (Jerry) Stabile, coach (Lance) Pugh and coach (Mike) McCannon to see exactly what they expected to do in middle school football,” Gantick said about the Steamboat High School coaching staff. “It’s about it being fun while teaching them football.”

That’s what Gantick set out to do.

In addition to running a similar version of the 3-5 defense that the high school runs, offensive coordinator Joel Rae incorporated a lot of the same passing routes that the high school runs into the eighth-graders’ veer-option attack.

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“We were trying to give them at least a glimpse of what it’s going to be like next year,” Gantick said.

Judging by the results, Gantick said he’s pretty sure the eighth-grade players should be able to make a smooth transition to the next level.

“We had smaller guys and bigger guys, but everyone had that passion and brought it to the field,” he said. “The smallest kid on our team scored a touchdown, and that choked me up a little bit. : It’s not all about winning in eighth grade. We learned more from the losses. We learned a lot about the kids. You would look around the locker room, and some kids were taking it pretty hard. That tells me they have a passion for football.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com