While the Montezuma-Cortez High School football team’s 3-7 record last season was far from outstanding, the team improved over the course of the year.
Hoping to build on that in-season improvement, players and coaches have been working hard in advance of the upcoming season.
Highlighting the team’s offseason activities, 13 players participated in a 7-on-7 tournament in Albuquerque on June 27-28.
One of 16 schools competing in the tournament, M-CHS was outstanding, winning all but one of their tournament games and finishing first in the small-school division.
Especially impressive for M-CHS was a championship victory over last year’s tournament champions.
“The kids have come a long way,” said M-CHS head coach Casey Coulter. “Everyone played well.”
Among the players who stood out was up-and-coming junior Ryan Gurney, who figures to see time at safety and wide receiver next season.
“Ryan Gurney is a ball hawk,” said Coulter. “If (the ball) is in the air, he’s going to get it.”
Also playing well for the Panthers were running back Randy Haley and quarterback Jonathan Walck, who both figure to contribute next year.
“They don’t really talk much, but they don’t have to,” said Coulter of Haley and Walck, who will both be seniors next season. “They lead by example.”
Although the recent seven on seven tournament represented M-CHS’s last major event this summer, players plan to continue lifting four days a week as they have all summer.
The team is also hoping to set up scrimmages with Durango and Dolores in the coming weeks.
Although it is impossible to predict just how good M-CHS will be next season, the fact that the team is to Class 2A should aid the group.
“You can just tell something is different,” said Coulter. “The kids are excited. I can’t wait until August.”
The Panthers will open the 2014 season with a home matchup against Aspen High School, which is currently scheduled for 7 p.m.