Christian Heritage's Leonard ready to get back to defense after injury

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Christian Heritage School's Gage Leonard runs past defenders during a game in 2019.

Christian Heritage School's Gage Leonard is just ready to get back to playing defense for the Lion football team.

The junior has played all over the field on both sides of the ball, but an injury has him only out there on offense for the first few weeks of the Christian Heritage 2020 season. He's eager for that to change soon.

"I had a labrum tear last year and had surgery in January," Leonard said. "I'm probably not going to play for the first couple of weeks, because the doctor doesn't want me reaching out just yet like I would to tackle people. It's been a difficult rehab, but it's getting where it needs to be now."

"I like playing offense, but I'm not used to watching my teammates play defense without me," Leonard said. "I love playing physical, and I can't wait to be out there."

Once Leonard, who lines up mostly at running back on offense, does suit up on the defensive side of the ball again, he'll form a dynamic pair at safety with Evan Lester, a decorated, two-way star for the Lions himself.

"We're a little bit different," Leonard said of his pairing at safety with Lester. "He's a little bit better at the pass game, and I think I play the run better. It's special what we have back there."

Lester is the lankier of the two at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, while Leonard is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds.

Lester, now a senior, picked up several scholarship offers from Division I schools after his junior year. As the younger of the two safeties steps in to form that Leonard-Lester pairing, Christian Heritage head coach Jay Poag said he wouldn't be surprised to see a similar influx of offers for Leonard.

"Both of those kids are special," Poag said. "Evan's got 20 Division I offers, and Gage will probably be in the same boat a year from now."

Leonard doesn't hold a college offer yet, but says he'll be ready to let his play take care of that as he tries to help a Christian Heritage team with high expectations flourish in 2020.

"It's definitely something I want to do in the future is play college ball," Leonard said.

The Lions finished 9-2 last year, and Leonard says the 2020 goal has always been to take the next step into state title contention. Christian Heritage stumbled in its first big test of the new season, falling to Fellowship Christian, a semi-finalist in last year's Class A Private state playoffs, 43-21 in week one. The Lions got out to a 14-0 start before Fellowship stormed back for the win.

"Last week showed us off the start what we've got to do," Leonard said. "We've never really been challenged like that in the first game. I think we can keep getting better and give a real shot in the playoffs."

Christian Heritage plays at Landmark Christian Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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