Ignacio High school football isn't on life support, according to head coach Alfonso "Ponch" Garcia. He said it's alive and hitting hard.
"It's been going great; the kids have responded so well," Garcia said Monday evening after starting the second week of official practice. "And by the way, we do have 24, 26 kids right now! Today we did a little bit of hitting, because the kids, they've been antsy! They want to start hitting! And we decided it was time do a little engaging, get 'em used to it, so it was good. The attitudes are so positive-it's pretty awesome."
Garcia said he isn't sure how the report started that the school didn't have enough players to field a team, but he's pleased that hasn't been the case.
That seems almost par for the 1A Southern Peaks Conference's course. Rival Dolores is under new leadership this fall, while Walsenburg John Mall - also under new leadership - is transferring to the 1A Santa Fe, while considering a 2019 drop to eight-man. Former Southern Peaks member Center is back in this year's league after a year away from varsity competition.
Though quarterback will again be a position up for grabs, with both Trace Lovelace and Marcus Chapman having graduated back in May, several returning players are vying for the position. Ball-carriers Dustin Sanchez, Lawrence Toledo, and Mike Archuleta should again be in the mix, along with receivers Colten Jackson and Ocean Hunter, but Garcia stressed that offensive-line performance will be most vital of all.
"We've had to start with a fresh quarterback," he said. "You always want to have a quarterback coming up, you know? But with my luck, every year I've only had one kid that has been quarterback for even two years."
Getting enough players to work on the offensive line will be crucial, he added, with at least five players needed. "So I would like to work on that more. We would like to have eight, so we can sub those kids out, get them a little break, but it is what it is. Our line's looking pretty good; it would be nice to have more."
And against La Jara Centauri and Monte Vista, again the Southern Peaks' likely front-runners, more would certainly be better. Ultimately, Garcia knows success or failure will be determined by one simple concept:
"Understanding," he said. "Understanding the few plays that we're trying to insert, and to make them understand their jobs - what every kid has to do - for whatever play's called."
"Yeah, everybody wants to have an undefeated season, you know? But I'll be a very happy man with a .500 season and changing of attitudes towards the positive, and making a difference on the kids. So I'm excited, looking forward to putting this group out there...competing. The main word is 'compete' - and never give up."
"That's most important," he added. "Football's just a game, but a game that teaches you a lot about life."
Ignacio is set to open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25 against Leadville-based Lake County, which had a 2-7 record in 2017 and went 1-4 in league play.