Youthful Cardinals lean on experience

Elizabeth keys on leadership of accomplished few on gridiron

Elizabeth coach Chris Cline talks with senior quarterback Willie Weber during a 7-on-7 tournament in June. File photo
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Willie Weber certainly hopes to be one of the “come-back-players” for Elizabeth on the football field this season. But, for that matter, so do all of the Cardinals. They just want to come back for a great season.

Weber missed last season due to injury and wasn't part of Elizabeth's 8-3 campaign, one which saw the Cardinals defeated, 14-13, in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs by Glenwood Springs. As for the team, coached by the venerable Chris Cline, they would like nothing better than to advance further in the playoffs.

“I just want to play at 100 percent this season and surpass my abilities,” said Weber, who measures 5 feet 11 inches and checks in at 170 pounds. “I want to be a leader and help lead us into the playoffs.

“I want to keep everyone in their top roles and for all of us to do our best. It's going to be an interesting and challenging season, but I think we're all going to be ready. We've got a lot of guys ready to step up.”

That's just what Cline, beginning his 14th season as the Elizabeth coach, is hoping for. And, he would like nothing better than to see the Cardinals fly as high as they did during their final five games of last year's regular season, when the squad outscored its opponents 272-38 en route to capturing the Colorado 7 League title.

The ball coach would like nothing better than to see his team win a state title as the Cardinals did in 2011, going 14-0 in the process.

“One is always challenged as a coach,” said Cline, who doubles as the school's athletic director. “We only have a few back from last year … and we have a lot of work to do. It's always a challenge and a test to see how the boys will do. I think we've got a fine group of great and confident kids, though.”

Not only is Cline looking for leadership from Weber, but from Jacob Burgett, Aaron Stone, and his son, Coby Cline.

“It's just one of those years you are not really sure how things will work out,” the coach said. “We've got a lot of experience with these four players and they should certainly help the others with their leadership abilities. I'm counting on them a lot for their leadership.”

The younger Cline (5-10, 265) has been a force up front for Elizabeth the past two seasons and he wants to see his hard work at center and nose guard pay off.

“We've got a lot of young players,” he said. “We just want to make sure we can help them all improve and step up and be team leaders. This will be my third year starting at center and I just want to do a good job on offense and defense.

“This is it for me, my senior year. I'm not sure about college right now. I'm just grateful to be on the field with these guys and hoping to give them all a lift.”

Burgett (5-11, 180), a talented running back and outside linebacker, is confident that Elizabeth can overcome its youth. And, he is also hoping to build on his college opportunities.

“I just want to keep on trying my best while helping all our younger players to do their best,” Burgett said. “We just want everyone to move up and improve. This is my third year starting and I hope to be a leader and for our play to be outstanding. I definitely think we can make the playoff and make it past the first round.”

Of course, those are similar thoughts for Stone, who begins the season at tight end and middle linebacker, while checking in at 6-4, 205-pounds. He's not sure on college football, but said he would like to play baseball at the next level if the opportunity arises.

“Our key is that we have to play together and meet our challenges and play with excellent chemistry,” Stone said. “We only have three starters back from last season. We have to stay focused, preserve and work hard at practice. I hope we can win league and I think we all have some positive feelings. We will just all have to try hard and see how it goes.”