Falling back legend Bryce Vaz sprinted into the end zone so many times in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs that it proved difficult to keep count.
“I’ll be honest with you,” his coach Monte Thelen said, recalling his thought process when No. 3 Legend rolled to a 56-35 win over No. 6 Fairview last week. “I was not sure how many touchdowns he had scored.”
Vaz’s touchdown count? An astonishing six staggering scores – matching his overall carry for the season prior to last week.
The junior who made his first Legend started running, converted from wide receiver, propelled his team to Saturday’s semifinal with No. 2 Valor Christian – making Vaz the early breakout star of the Colorado prep football postseason.
“I didn’t keep track, but after every time I scored, my teammates came up to me on the sidelines and told me,” said Vaz. ‘I wasn’t really worried about it. I just knew this was a big playoff game for us. We had to go out and win. … I was just waiting for my chance. “
Vaz started playing football at about age 5 in the flag league, he said, with the greatest dexterity “making kids miss and scoring touchdowns.” Vaz later enrolled with Valor Christian for his freshman year of playing football.
However, when his parents changed jobs, Vaz left Valor for Legend. The CHSAA’s transfer rules forbid him to play varsity last season. Then Vaz got a high ankle sprain that kept him out of several JV matches.
“I was very upset about it,” said Vaz. “I understood the transfer rules. But it was just a crazy situation playing JV when I knew I was a varsity talent. “
Vaz finally got his chance this season, but was unable to replace senior Connor Eise as the starting running back. Vaz suffered another setback with a hamstring injury. When he was healthy, Legend coaches showed him to be a wide receiver, but Vaz always felt more comfortable running back.
Then Eise got injured in the week of practice leading up to the quarterfinals against Fairview. Legend turned to Vaz in the backfield and he exceeded all expectations. Late in the first quarter, Vaz broke loose for a 56-meter touchdown, confirming his desire to carry the football.
Fairview could not keep Vaz out of the end zone, as he put down 310 meters on 31 carriers.
“It’s explosive,” said Thelen. “He has good speed and power, and showed a very good balance against Fairview. He ran away from many people. … He is a fine young man from a very good family. We are very happy with his success. “
Legend (7-0) wants to keep his momentum rolling against Vaz’s former team at Valor Christian (6-0) on Saturday. Vaz knows Legend is the underdog. That only reinforces his desire for a chance to play in the 5A state title at Pueblo next week.
“I set high standards for myself in this game,” said Vaz. “I have to play even more than last week, because Valor is a tougher team (than Fairview). But I know all their players and all their boys. I am really excited to go out and show them what they are missing. “