For the first few minutes of every practice, all appears normal for the Dolores High School football team. As players stretch and warm up, coaches talk amongst themselves and make last-minute adjustments to the practice schedule.
Notably absent from this year’s football activities, however, is former head coach Chris Trusler, whose disciplined style defined the program for five seasons. After Trusler’s contract was not renewed after last season, former assistant and Dove Creek player Ray Davis was hired as his replacement and given the task of rebuilding the Bears program.
“I’m keeping a lot of coach Trusler’s philosophies in place,” Davis said. “We’re just going to make it more fun. We’re going to have to rebuild the program. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Freshman QB set to lead offenseOn the offensive side of the ball, the Bears will rely heavily on freshman quarterback Wyatt Koskie, who starred for his school’s middle school team last season and appears more than ready to take over from last year’s starter, Justin Purkat.
For Koskie to be successful, however, Dolores’ offensive line will have to give him the type of quality protection that has not been present for the Bears’ team in recent years.
“(Koskie) is tall, and he has a good head on his shoulders,” Davis said. “As long as we can keep him from getting beat up too bad, I think he’s going to do really well.”
“I want to do as best as I can, and I don’t want to let anybody down,” said Koskie. “I just have to work my butt off all the time.”
Lining up behind Koskie in the backfield will be one of at least five running backs who are competing for playing time. Figuring to open holes for the Bears runners will be junior Levi Fuller, who will split time between fullback and the offensive line.
Garnering most of the playing time at wide receiver will be junior Trey Seekins and senior Bryce Baumgarten, who has emerged as a key leader on this year’s team. Freshman Landon Thompson, who has been turning heads during practices, also figures to have several passes thrown his way.
“Being a leader is definitely a lot different than what I’ve been doing,” said Baumgartner. “I just want to be out there helping the underclassmen get better. Honestly, we’ve had some of the best practices that we’ve had. Our coaches know our abilities, and they put us to our limits.”
Defense set to bring the heatWhile offensive production will be critical for the Bears this season, the team’s defense will likely be its strong suit, thanks to a talented defensive line led by Bryan Escarcega and a solid linebacking corps anchored by Zander Eichner.
According to Davis, a goal for this year’s team is to hold opponents to under 14 points per game, and after hearing their head coach’s goal early in the season, defensive players have preached the importance of aggression.
“We’re hoping to have a strong mentality,” Escarcega said. “We don’t quit when we’re going to go out there and make plays. We’re running low on players this year, so we’re going to have to work even harder to win games.”
Notable games on this year’s schedule include this week’s home opener, which will be played in an 8-man format against Monticello High School. Dolores also will play an eight-man game against Monument Valley (Utah) and will open its conference schedule at home against Monte Vista on Sept. 28.
“A reasonable goal this year is going to be three or four wins,” Davis said. “We have a couple of eight-man games that we’re playing this year. When we get into league, we just have to wait and see. It’s going to be tough.”
“We’re just trying to not disappoint the home crowd,” added Escarcega. “It’s exciting to watch your home football team, and we want fans to come here and keep supporting us.”