Entering it season with a roster full of talented youngsters and two stalwart upperclassmen anchoring its offensive line, Dove Creek High School football team is oozing with potential.
What has stood out to longtime head coach Shane Baughman throughout early season practices, however, is not necessarily the talent on the field, but the overall mindset of his young Bulldogs team.
“The first word that pops into my head is ‘united,’” Baughman said. “We’ve got a culture that we’re trying to build, and the group of kids that we have right now are buying into that. They’ve all decided to play for each other and that’s a huge key to winning football games.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on their running game, which will be headlined by junior tailback Cade Curtis and sophomore slot back Gauge Thompson. Both shifty and athletic, the tandem figures to create its fair share of headaches for opposing defenses this season.
As important to Dove Creek’s running game as its running backs will be the team’s three offensive linemen, who weigh a combined 675 pounds and bring muscle and bulk to the team. According to Baughman, seniors JD Dennison and Austin Green are both experienced blockers, and sophomore Hayden Gray is exceptionally strong.
“Our offensive line will be our team’s strength this season,” Baughman said. “All three of our linemen are great athletes and they are all super-strong.”
While it appears that the team’s running game and blocking will be stout, a question mark remains at quarterback as freshman Corbin Kressler and sophomore Austin Beanland continue to battle for the position. Because the two signal callers have different strengths, Baughman said that both youngsters will earn playing time this season.
“I’m not sure that we’ll have a first-string starter,” the Dove Creek coach said. “I think they’ll both play, and we’ll rotate them in and out depending on the play that we want to run.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs will look to Gray, Dennison, and Green to pressure opposing quarterbacks and contain opponents’ running games. The team’s speedy linebacking corps will be anchored by junior Walker Cressler and several other players will also have an impact.
“I think we’ll be a lot quicker this season,” Baughman said. “We’ll be speedy on defense. We’ll have the same three lineman up front and all of our little guys in the secondary.”
Among the Bulldogs most challenging games this season will be a home matchup against Norwood on Sept. 14 and a road battle against Mancos on Oct. 26. The team’s opener will take place in Dove Creek on Aug. 24, when Dolores comes to town for its first eight-man contest in school history.
“The game against Dolores will be the Alec Tabor Memorial Game,” Baughman said. “Alec was classmates with a lot of the kids on this team and they wanted to play this game in his memory. The community is really rallying around sports in Dove Creek right now and after a hiatus for a few years, it seems like everyone is excited again.”
Based on Baughman’s statements, it appears as if one would be hard pressed to find a more exciting place to be than Dove Creek’s home football field this Friday night.