Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Calvary Christian a gracious host

A quick look at the sidelines and it would appear as if the UConn support staff is growing with some new faces in attendance at the daily practices in preparation for Saturday's St Petersburg Bowl.

However, it is actually members of the Calvary Christian High School athletic department who have not only let the Huskies to use the turf field for practices but also the weight room and other facilities.

Calvary Christian athletic director Darrell Don was not only in attendance at this morning's practice but was wearing a UConn shirt as well. Don did not hide his enthusiasm at having UConn work out at the high school.

"During the holidays it is pretty easy because school is closed and it doesn't interfere with church," Don said. "We wouldn't be able to do it Sunday but it has been great. I was an athletic director in Orlando (at Orlando First Academy) and we had Russell Champs Bowl (now called the Russell Athletic Bowl) and Capital One Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl) up there and we had teams practicing there. We are used to doing it. With having turf, it is a very easy transition for us.

"It is great. Coach Diaco, I love his energy. Our football coaches have been out watching the energy level and the passion to play. It is always good when you can expose our people to a program at this level and a quality coaching staff. The kids, the staff have been wonderful. Great kids, very polite and just their demeanor has been a great fit for us."

Calvary Christian, coached by former NFL tight end Todd Yoder, had a 3-7 record this past season but is one year removed from an 8-3 season and spot in the Florida 3A playoffs.

The school has grown from about 270 students four years ago to 460 this year. Don said the plan is to cap the attendance somewhere between 500-525.

With the school less than two miles from Bright House Field, the host of the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament, Calvary Christian is no stranger to having its facilities be a temporary home away from home for Division I college programs.

Whether it is during the daily practices at Calvary Christian, charity events or even today's trip to Busch Gardens, this has been a week full of lasting memories for the UConn players and coaches.

"They have been so welcoming and you can't help but be so pleased with the bowl experience, it has been great," UConn coach Bob Diaco said.

The irony of it all hit Marshall sophomore tight end Ryan Yurachek when the St. Petersburg Bowl matchup was officially announced.

UConn became bowl eligible thanks to a stunning upset of previously undefeated Houston. Oh, by the way, Houston's director of athletics happens to be Hunter Yurachek, the proud father of the player who led Marshall with eight touchdown receptions in the regular season.

"It is kind of funny," Ryan Yurachek said before Marshall's practice this morning. "He is not the greatest guy in terms of football knowledge goes but he just started talking on the phone when we first found out we were going to play them and I was like 'he doesn't know what he is talking about.' I actually watched on film a little bit of what he was talking about was true so it was actually kind of funny. It is obviously kind of funny how it worked out. He gave me a little insight, as much as he could."

So if Marshall were to beat UConn which is something Houston did not accomplish, would he engage with some trash talk with dear old dad?

"A little bit between me and him but probably not," Yurachek said.

All kidding aside, Yurachek believes the Houston tape has been beneficial in preparing to play UConn.

"We watched the Houston game a bunch, not only being one of the teams that they knocked off but we are very similar to Houston offensively and special teams so it was a good film for us to watch, Yurachek said.


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