Since first-year coach Draye Ersery attended Sierra High School, the Stallion football team has been in a slump with just three winning seasons in 13 years.
But Ersery is on a mission to make a change in 2018 — and just two games into the season, it’s clear he’s doing something right.
Starting the year 2-0, Ersery and the Stallions already have more wins than the past three seasons, and look to start 3-0 for the first time since 2014. But first, Sierra must get past another unbeaten team, Pueblo Central.
Similar to Sierra, the Wildcats haven’t had an overly successful run in recent years, but they enter Friday’s contest at Harrison District 2 Stadium 2-0 after defeating Falcon and Mitchell.
Heading into their Week 4 matchup Sierra has defeated Liberty and Woodland Park, outscoring opponents 54-27.
The Stallions are led by junior Elijah Smith who does a little bit of everything. He has 243 rushing yards, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, 37 receiving yards, nine tackles, including four for a loss and a sack, and two fumble recoveries. Tristan Burris is Sierra's top receiver with 97 yards on 10 receptions and two touchdowns.
“Elijah is going to do what Elijah does. He works hard he’s one of the leaders on this football team, and he’s a gamer,” Ersery said. “I expect Elijah to come through with his character off the field, on the field and during practice.”
Sierra is also working with a quarterback tandem with sophomore Toby Tuatoo and senior Connar Burgess, but coach Ersery said he’s unsure who will get the nod this Friday.
“We have a very interesting quarterback situation we have the passer (Tuatoo) and the true option quarterback (Burgess),” Ersery said. “But we are treating it as who had the better practice, who worked the hardest, who watched the most film and who understands the concept of what we’re trying to do on the field on Friday night.”
Sierra’s biggest threat this week will be Pueblo Central’s Nico Martin who has 271 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Martin is followed by Aureious Drew with 115 yards rushing.
The Wildcats have a sophomore quarterback under center in Ryley Roth who has thrown for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Martin has also been brought in on scoring drives and is 2 for 2 for 47 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
With Ersery at the helm though, the Stallions are facing a transition not only in playing style, but attitude.
“We are pushing these boys and keeping them responsible and accountable for their actions off the field,” Ersery said. “They’re going to go to study hall and be respectful in class. Sierra High School is always a good place for talent, but we’re also known to have disciplinary issues, so I want to make sure we are cleaned up from the inside out.”
Ersery, who previously coached at Golden State High School in Florida, said he’s bringing some of the East Coast style to the Stallions this year.
Ersery, a 2005 Sierra graduate, was a member of two state championship relay teams and helped the Stallions to conference championships in boys’ basketball and track and field, in which the banners are still hanging in Sierra’s gym.
“It’s humbling to be back, but I try to look at it as I’m a stranger,” Ersery said. “I want to look at it as another place to motivate kids, and another place to get these kids going and fired up— it just so happens I get to do it here.”
WILDCATS-STALLIONS AT A GLANCE
Game data: Pueblo Central Wildcats (2-0) vs. Sierra Stallions (2-0) … Friday at 7 p.m. at Harrison District 2 Stadium.
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Teams: Last year the Wildcats had two wins, an improvement from a winless season in 2016, but this year Pueblo Central has already matched last year’s win total, defeating area teams Falcon and Mitchell in the first two weeks of the season.
The Wildcats are led by senior Nico Martin who averages more than 180 yards. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 217 yards, and is also the team’s top receiver with 97 yards and two touchdowns. Pueblo Central has a sophomore under center in Ryley Roth who has thrown for 167 yards.
Sierra, which has had three straight one-win seasons, has started the year 2-0 thanks to wins over Liberty and Woodland Park. The Stallions are working with a quarterback tandem of Toby Tuatoo and Connar Burgess. First year coach Draye Ersery said "whoever has the best practice" will get the nod against Pueblo Central.
The Stallions are led by junior running back Elijah Smith who has 243 yards on the season. Followed by Burgess who has 123 yards rushing. Tristan Burris is the team’s top receiver with 97 yards and two touchdowns, while Isaiah Wilburn has 51 receiving yards and a pair of TDs.