By Michael Hicks
On Sunday afternoon it starts with Dan McGinn and his assistant coaches meeting — the offensive coaches at his house and the defensive ones at coordinator Troy Diffendaffer’s — dissecting film of their next opponent and of their own games. As the week progresses, the Berthoud Spartans learn their opponent’s tendencies, their plays and run their own. Thursday night is typically team dinner night and Friday is game day. This week, however, was different than usual. The following is a look at the day-to-day preparation of the BHS football team.
Coaches meeting at the house of head coach Dan McGinn
7:06 p.m. — With head coach Dan McGinn laid back, offensive assistant Colby Schultz handles remote control honors, Rusty Mathena jots down notes and Mike Friede watches the film intensely as the Berthoud offensive staff dissect a Silver Creek game film before watching their own film from the previous Friday’s 26-14 win at Sterling and then last year’s game against Silver Creek. “That’s the guy he goes to,” McGinn comments, talking about No. 15 — Brett Wright, the top receiver threat for Raptors QB Austin Apodaca.
7:20 p.m. — The coaches spot a favorable defensive alignment on the Silver Creek film that fits their scheme. Silver Creek is showing a 3-3 alignment that has its linebackers lined up over the tackles, leaving the middle of the field wide open. “We’ll watch it on our film but we ran Houston — a pass play — two or three times the other night and so many of their kids are going with Kent (Flynn), and I would to. Kent’s going to come out and this safety is going to go this way. Pat (Conrey) was wide open.”
7:36 p.m. — “I really think they’re going try to make us throw,” McGinn commented. “That’s what Sterling tried to do. We’re going to get lots and lots and lots of things open.”
7:37 p.m. — But, more importantly, will Berthoud take advantage of the openings, especially with a sophomore QB in Zach Ruebesam leading the way. “Are we making him think too much?” Friede questioned as the team prepares for what is essentially a playoff game to get into the postseason. “I don’t think so, Mike,” McGinn answered. “He’s hanging on to the ball a little too long, which we know he does. On our option, he’s pre-determined it.”
Offensive, defensive coaches walk players through the alignments they expect to see
3:35 p.m. — The junior varsity game with Sterling is moments from starting. Meanwhile, the varsity starters are in their helmets, wearing shoulder pads, T-shirts and some in pajama-like pants. The offensive players are wearing white practice jerseys and the defensive ones in black as practice begins.
3:41 p.m. — Defensive coordinator Troy Diffendaffer is walking his defense through what they should expect when Silver Creek has the ball. On one play, the quarterback’s motion is obvious. “If the back is on the strong, trip side, think draw right now back this way (pointing to the right of the line). The quarterback really overdoes his draw. Most of the time he’s going nonchalant, comes back here with the ball down low. The minute he goes for the draw he brings the ball awfully high right off the bat. It’s an obvious read.”
3:45 p.m. — Diffendaffer also makes it known, in no uncertain terms, that his defense has to watch out for Apodaca’s arm, not his legs. “The quarterback will run and scramble. He doesn’t like to run the ball. Make sure he stays in the pocket. He’s a better passer if he’s out on the run moving around. You four up front got to, got to, got to slow down a little bit and make the pocket squeeze right here (standing behind center). You can’t be coming too hard up field and let this guy break contain.”
3:52 p.m. — Coaches have decided to skip film study today; instead they stay outside to continue practice, trying to get as much field time as possible before what lies ahead in mid-week.
3:56 p.m. — While Silver Creek’s defense, at least on film, has shown some openings, McGinn assures his offense that it will do things their way. “Nothing they do is going to dictate what we do. We’re going to do our stuff.”
4:19 p.m. — Case in point, Berthoud begins work on a five-play series from a no-huddle set. The fifth play is a rarely-used wide receiver reverse. The play is intended to take advantage of the likelihood that Silver Creek will cover star running back Kent Flynn first. “The reason we think this will work is right here,” McGinn said, pointing toward Flynn. “We know for a fact that 47 has a big target on him and that people are going to follow him.” Most teams do.
First day, and as it turns out the only day, of true practice before playing Silver Creek
3:50 p.m. — Clouds hover overhead, it is chilly and snow is on the way. But practice must go on. The Spartans are working on the kicking game, a sore spot in recent weeks. Incumbent Colton Moore is being challenged for the spot by sophomore offensive lineman Sheldon Sladek, among others. Moore hadn’t made an extra point since his two against Fort Morgan three weeks earlier essentially won the game. He missed one and a 30-yard field goal the following week in a 7-6 loss to Mountain View.
4:02 p.m. — With Diffendaffer working on the tackling slide, his defensive front takes turns — first the linemen and then the linebackers — on working on their moves around it. Sometimes, however, it’s easier said than done. “Rip it to your left,” Diffendaffer asks before blowing his whistle. “Your other left, Chet,” speaking to starting linebacker and senior captain Chet Zaniefski. “My left, oh man,” Zaniefski responded, realizing his mistake.
4:21 p.m. — Schultz goes over Silver Creek’s offensive scheme with the Spartans’ first-team offense. It’s a quick session that will help, hopefully, the Berthoud defense prepare for what they’re about to see. But why the first-team offense? “We’ll teach the run game of Silver Creek’s to our first offense. Then we’ll go down and start a 9-on-7 session (against the defense). The only purpose is for our best kids to be going against our best kids. Ten minutes from now they won’t remember any of this stuff.”
4:23 p.m. — Injured running back Greg Glasser shows up at practice, sans the crutches he has been using since breaking his fibula against Roosevelt four games ago. “I had surgery on the ninth (Sept. 9) and now I’m healing. My leg doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s just the sprained ankle.” Nevertheless, the senior can only watch as the surgery will put him out six weeks and a plate and seven screws were inserted into his leg.
4:46 p.m. — Berthoud is heavily involved in its 9-on-7 drills now with the offense running Silver Creek’s run plays. But maybe the Spartans were running them a little too good. Coach Diffendaffer’s whistle blows. “Do it again. Come on, (expletive), let’s go, wrap him up. This is 9-on-7. Flag football starts in the fall. Let’s go again.”
Practice is scheduled for indoors, but Mother Nature and the school district say otherwise
4:32 p.m. — Athletic Director Mark Avery was notified an hour earlier
by the Thompson R2-J School District that all school activities, including practice, were canceled. When the district says so, it’s a done deal. Instead of taking practice indoors for the first time in three years, McGinn’s team didn’t even practice at all. It would’ve been the first time in three years that team had practiced indoors. It wasn’t to be.
5:15 p.m. — Head coach McGinn was at home instead of at practice. But, fortunately, his team had taken into consideration the inclement weather on the way the day before and ran 9-on-7 drills against Silver Creek’s defensive setup. “We changed our practice to run defense and offense, both run and pass some last night.” It may be the only chance the team gets to practice before Friday’s game. “We hope to do a walk-through tomorrow and Friday before we play them. It is what it is.” The players had school that day at least, said safety Marcus Mathiesen. That allowed them the opportunity to watch the film they skipped on Monday.
No school, no practice, no team dinner.
4:47 p.m. — Thompson R2-J School District canceled school the night before. There were no parent-teacher conferences and no after-school activities. That meant no practice. With snow finally starting to let up after dropping nearly two feet of it in the past 48 hours, Friday’s game time appeared to be in jeopardy. “(Silver Creek head coach) Mike Apodaca would know by the end of the day if the game was being moved back,” Schultz said. Speculation starts to run that it will be played Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. at Longmont’s Everly-Montgomery Field, the second game of a tripleheader.
5:15 p.m. — Instead of the usual team dinner — a Berthoud tradition the past decade — players were left to do their own thing. But that didn’t mean the team didn’t bond. “We hung out together and made sure we were on the same page,” Mathiesen said of himself and his teammates. “We missed it (team dinner), but we are a team. Outside of football we hang out a lot to make sure we stay together.”
It’s game time, even if there is two feet of snow on the ground
8 a.m. — Schultz, barely two hours earlier, gets the call. Tonight’s game is on. The team will hold a walk-through at 1:30 p.m. at the high school.
1:37 p.m. — The craziness of the schedule has made it difficult to get in touch with all of the players. “Has anybody gotten a hold of (Billy) Schump?” McGinn asks. Minutes later, linebacker Joel Maly speaks softly to McGinn. “All right,” McGinn says before giving Maly a high-five.
1:43 p.m. — “I’m OK with that just because of your speed. I’d rather you go downhill first and make their outside guys take the in then take your angle. But if you can work with them I’m OK with you taking a couple of steps. Just don’t go five or 10 steps and take your angle,” Assistant Coach Jeremy Lanter talking with punt returner Marcus Mathiesen about how to attack the return game against the Raptors.
2 p.m. — Schump, in T-shirt and shorts, shows up in the gymnasium.
7 p.m. — It’s game time.
7:07 p.m. — Ruebesam hits Conrey for a 7-yard TD pass with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter. It would be the first of three TD passes for the sophomore quarterback, two of which go to Conrey, en route to a 12-for-12 passing night.
7:08 p.m. — Moore hits an extra point for the first time since the Fort Morgan game, ending a two-game streak without one. He adds two more and has a perfect night kicking the ball.
8:05 p.m. — Berthoud has yet to run the practiced reverse, but it has found a way to decoy Flynn. The senior running back takes the opening handoff of the second half and rolls right before throwing a 38-yard pass to Conrey to put the Spartans deep in Silver Creek territory. Seven plays later, Ruebesam finds Conrey again in the end zone for a two-touchdown lead.
9:40 p.m. — Berthoud 21, Silver Creek 7. The Spartans celebrate their fourth-straight playoff appearance while Raptor players can only sit and hope for the best. Schultz, who normally would have to run back to Berthoud to get copies of the game made for the next team — this week being Frederick — to scout doesn’t have to. The Frederick coaching staff is on hand since their game with Fort Lupton was postponed until Monday. That said, the Berthoud coaches will be going to Frederick to scout this week’s foe and begin another week of preparation.