DENVER — The deer-in-the-headlights look is slowly disappearing for Columbine junior-to-be Michael Tait. Sparingly used on the Rebels’ varsity football team last season, Tait fine-tuned his quarterbacking skills at the JV level. But at the Denver Broncos’ annual 7-on-7 football tournament June 20 at All City Stadium, his passing skills were out there for all to see.
“It’s a lot different. Obviously, it’s helping out a bunch,” Tait said of the experience. “I think, honestly, it’s getting easier as times goes by, and things are slowing down. It’s exciting being out here for the first time.”
As part of one of the nearly four dozen teams at this year’s four-day tournament, all Tait could ask for was to do his best for the typically run-first Columbine Rebels.
That worked out well in narrow victories over St. Mary’s and Hinkley in the first of their pool-play games, but it was hardly enough in the Rebels’ 27-14 defeat to upcoming Discovery Canyon.
“We’re so young and inexperienced. We have seniors, but they are inexperienced kids that need this time to play,” assistant coach Ivory Moore said. “This is good for us. I’m really happy the Denver Broncos provide this opportunity for us. Team-wise, we’re trying to get better every opportunity that we get. This is one of those times.”
All 32 NFL teams provide this opportunity, with the winning schools from each of the team tournaments advancing to the national finals in Cleveland, Ohio.
Fellow South Jeffco teams Chatfield and Dakota Ridge also took part in this year’s field. Chatfield advanced out of its pool with a trio of victories the day before.
The Chargers topped Coal Ridge (41-7), Thornton (35-14) and Pueblo Central (21-14), but they weren’t able to make it to the championship game at Dove Valley three days later.
Dakota Ridge, like Columbine, went 2-1. The Eagles scored back-to-back tournament-opening wins over Monte Vista (21-17) and Denver West (24-14) before a furious rally against Eaglecrest came up short in a 35-28 defeat in the closing seconds.
Wins and losses are nice this time of year, but that’s not what Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz is concerned with. This is more about what his team does and learns from the experience.
“It’s a chance to get better, a chance to learn, to compete, to work on timing and passing,” Woitalewicz said. “It’s a chance to get a lot of younger kids reps. We didn’t have a full crew today. There are some kids in Omaha for baseball and kids on vacation. I thought the younger kids did a great job by stepping up and playing. It’s all about competing, getting better and even team bonding and hanging out together.”
Dakota Ridge senior quarterback Braxton Thais echoed those sentiments.
“I think it’s a good way to get out here and work with the wide receivers, work on our timing and our routes and throws,” Thais said. “It’s good to get out here and get those reps in that we don’t always get in during a regular day of practice. It’s good to get out and face other teams and not just kids on our own team.”
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.