Photos courtesy of Photoexpectations

Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
It was a night for all ages Aug. 27 at the Gardner-Edgerton High School District Activities Center, as the BEHS football team — under the direction of first year head coach Jesse Owen — hosted the First Annual GEHS Football Family Fun Night.
Football players from fourth grade on up were able to display their talents under the Friday night lights and in front of a nearly packed stadium, as coaches ran them through plays and play sets and gave the spectators a chance to get a glimpse not only of the high school varsity players but also of future generations of Trailblazer gridders. In addition to the different age groups of football players on display, attendees were also treated to performances from the GEHS marching band, the Traiblazer cheerleading squad, and the Blazerettes — the GEHS dance team. Spectators were also able to purchase a full barbecue dinner and bid on silent auction items to raise money for the football program.
For Owen, organizing events like the Family Fun Night is all about emphasizing a sense of community around the program.
“We have the advantage of being a one-high school town,” said Owen after the festivities ended on Friday night. “We don’t have to split kids or share kids with other schools. There’s a lot of pride in this community. The community has always supported football. Last year, with COVID, it kind of kept the community away from football, unfortunately, just due to it being a weird year. So, to have people be able to come back — high school football unites people like nothing else. It’s a neat situation. We were pretty excited to see that.”
The festivities began at 7 p.m. with the fourth grade Little Blazer Football team padded up and ready for action. The fourth graders took the field by sprinting through the giant inflatable Trailblazer football helmet — just like their high school counterparts on game nights. The fourth graders then ran their offensive plays against bags (held by GEHS varsity football players). After the Trailblazer Marching Band and the Blazerettes were introduced and performed (the band, dance team, and flag squad performed a number from The Phantom of the Opera), the fifth and sixth grade Little Blazer Football teams each had their turn sprinting through the helmet and running plays in front of the crowd.
Following the grade school teams, the teams and coaches from all three middle schools — Pioneer Ridge, Trail Ridge, and Wheatridge — all had the opportunity to take the field and be recognized. After the middle schools, the GEHS freshmen football team made their debut and ran a limited full-contact scrimmage for about 25 minutes.
The night culminated with the GEHS varsity and junior varsity squads taking the field, as the crowd took in their first look at the 2021 Trailblazers. The Blazers ran through one offensive series and then special teams situations in all of the punting and kicking phases. After a long week of practices — some of them two-a-days — in the worst of  the August heat, Owen was determined to limit this run-through to more procedural matters, so that his players could practice some of the ins and outs of Game Night.
“This was kind of a trial run,” Owen said. “Our kids have been working very hard, and we’ve asked a lot out of them this past week. We had late practices, and we also had three two-a-days, so those evening practices made a short night when you had to turn around and come back the following morning. We’ve been getting our work done during practice. Tonight, the aim was to go through some of the peripheral things — substitutions, transitioning from offense to punt to kick return — and it looked about like a first night does. We had a couple of infractions, a couple of mistakes. So, I’m glad we got that out of our system.”
The Trailblazers face a tough test in their season debut, when they host defending 5A State Champion Mill Valley on Friday night at 7 p.m. at GEHS District Activities Center. Owen sees the contest as a chance for the Blazers to prove their mettle from the get-go.
“It’s a great challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity,” stated Owen. “That’s our approach. We have the opportunity to open against a perennial state power at home, in front of our crowd that wasn’t able to be here and celebrate and be a part of it last year. So, it’s an opportunity, and we’re working hard to take advantage of that.”