FALCON - The Early Stallions get the ball.
Nate and Ben Early, brothers on the Banning Lewis Prep Academy (BLPA) football team, had their hands on the ball seemingly all afternoon as the Stallions won the program’s first varsity football game Saturday, 27-16 over Jefferson at Falcon High School.
Nate, a junior who returned to the field after taking last year off, intercepted four passes, the second-most in a single game according to Colorado High School Activities Association records. One more and he would have become the third player in state history to pick off five passes in a game.
“He’s a big inspiration,” Ben said of his older brother.
Little brother made big brother proud, too. Three of Ben’s five receptions went for touchdowns. He finished with 151 receiving yards. Defensively, he picked off two passes and forced a fumble.
“I’m so proud of this man,” Nate said before slapping little brother on the chest. “He’s a freshman.”
Dylan Weatherly recovered two fumbles and Matthew Spencer forced two, leaving BLPA with nine total turnovers.
“That scoreboard should be a lot different, then,” coach Nic Olney said reflecting on an 11-point win after forcing nine turnovers. “But we’re growing up. We started five freshmen today.”
While the defense was pretty stout throughout the day – the exception being one long touchdown pass that cut BLPA’s lead to 13-10 at halftime – the offense had its ups and downs using a variety of formations.
Olney, formerly the coach at Widefield and St. Mary’s, had the BLPA offense lined up in a number of exotic formations. There were spread looks, a play out of the swinging gate and a bunch formation that produced Ben’s first touchdown. Memorizing the intricacies of numerous formations is a big ask for a team playing its first season of varsity football, but Olney said his team’s buy-in makes it possible.
“Whatever chance they feel like they can get to get that competitive edge, the kids love it,” Olney said. “I think in today’s day and age of coaching you’ve got to keep them interested, keep them going with different things. You can’t just get into one system and get stale with it. And they proved it today, they executed pretty well.”
After Daniel Pacheco scored the program’s first points with a field goal on its first possession, the younger Early slipped through the line out of a bunch formation, beat single coverage and won a race to the goal line for the Stallions’ first touchdown.
“I was ready for maybe one touchdown, a couple of long passes,” Ben said. “But once I got here, I was starting to feel it.”
Nate’s first two interceptions came deep in BLPA territory late in the second quarter with the Stallions protecting a three-point lead. Ben’s first interception came on Jefferson’s first drive of the second half and he followed it up with a second touchdown on the ensuing possession. Nate had a receiving touchdown taken off the board by a penalty after his third interception, and Jefferson made it 20-16 on an interception returned for a score on the next play.
A couple of forced turnovers from the Early boys set up Ben’s final touchdown, getting the Stallions program started on a positive note.
BLPA is a charter school in its fourth year of existence. There were starts and stops in the preseason due to COVID issues, and the team was without a couple of key players.
“These kids just overcome adversity and keep on rolling. I think that was the tale of the game. We gave them many, many opportunities to win that game,” Olney said.
“Proud of the kids, their efforts. Go Stallions.”