Coming off a difficult 2018 season that began with a new coach and ended with a 2-8 record, the Dolores High School football team is hoping that a core group of veterans and some talented youngsters can help spur improvement.
Among those likely to lead the way for the Bears this season is sophomore quarterback Wyatt Koskie, who experienced more than his fair share of growing pains last season while operating behind an undersized offensive line that struggled to contain opposing pass rushers.
“(Wyatt Koskie) is looking a lot better,” explained Bears second-year head coach Ray Davis. “We sent him to three different quarterback camps this year and he got a lot better on his accuracy stuff and he got a lot better at reading defenses.”
In hopes of improving on his 252 passing yards and three touchdowns last season, Koskie will look to a talented group of wide receivers led by senior leader Trey Seekins, who led the team with 14 receptions for 184 yards and caught two touchdown passes last season.
Sophomore speedster Landon Thompson also figures to make an impact at the receiver position, and senior bruiser Bryan Escarcega will look to add to his reputation as a solid blocker and possession receiver at the tight end position.
Rounding out the Bears’ skill positions will be quick sophomore running back Will Taylor and physical sophomore fullback Levi Fuller, whose complementing styles figure to give Dolores plenty of punch in the running game.
“(Will Taylor) is going to be our main horse,” Davis said. “He’s going to touch the ball probably 80% of the time and (Levi Fuller) will get most of the rest of the touches.”
While the Bears quarterback, ball carriers and receivers provide reason for hope, the functionality of the team’s offense will depend greatly on the team’s offensive line, which has struggled mightily in recent years.
Unlike the last five years in which Dolores trotted out linemen that weighed less than 175 pounds, this year’s line will feature plenty of strength, with an average weight of 250 pounds.
Linemen likely to make an impact include center Joe Summers, who moved from Charleston, South Carolina, during the offseason and sophomore Gabe Allread, who has begun to fulfill the vast potential he showed in middle school. Senior Wade Charles and offseason workhorse Caleb Montoya will also help anchor the Bears’ offensive line.
“I’ve probably got the biggest line that we’ve had in years,” Davis said. “I expect that both our offensive line and defensive line will be greatly improved.”
Although improvements to the Dolores offense dominated much of talk surrounding the team throughout the offseason, players agreed the team’s defense should not be overlooked on the eve of the 2019 campaign.
Leading the way for the Bears will be Charles, who recorded a team-high 77 tackles last season. Fuller, who made 59 tackles last season, also figures to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
“We just try to fill and kill and do the best we can,” Charles said when asked about the team’s approach on defense. “It’s very important for us to have a physical defense, especially when we play harder teams.”
Although finding success in the Southern Peaks League will be as difficult as always, as Centauri, Monte Vista and Center figure to set the gold standard. Davis, however, is confident his team can improve on last season’s win total and win six games.
“We want to win all but three of our games,” Davis said. “Looking at our schedule, there should be only three games that we should lose.”
After opening the season with road games against Monticello and Whitehorse, Dolores will play its home opener against Monument Valley, Utah, on Sept. 20. Asked about the importance of fans supporting his team throughout the season, Escarcega responded with a clear message.
“When fans support us, that hypes us up,” Escarcega said. “The more fans that come out, the better we get. We’ve got more players this year and I feel like we have a chance to have a better season than we had last year. I’m excited.”