After finishing last season with a 1-7 record, Dolores High School football players vowed to improve. Those same players then spent the next nine months working hard in the weight room and on the field.
Now just a few days away from the start of a new season, the dedicated group is eager to see their hard work pay off.
"We want to be better than we were last year and win a few more games," said second year head coach Chris Trusler. "We definitely have a young team this year. Our younger guys are going to have to fill some roles and learn quickly."
Offense looks to improve
Just as important as young players stepping up will be the Bears ability to improve an offense that was shut out in six of eight games last season. According to Trusler, the Bears will once again run a "spread offense" this year.
Piloting the offense will be sophomore quarterback Tristan Medina, who, according to Trusler, has improved since his freshman season.
"(Medina) led the charge last year and got a lot of experience under his belt," said Trulser. "I think he will play well this year."
Complementing Medina will junior running back Branden Donaldson, who played for Aztec High School last season, and senior fullback Guy Wallace. Both players agreed that developing a solid running game will be key to the Bears success this season.
"I expect we're going to be doing a lot of running," said Wallace. "I hope we do good at it."
Other players likely to aid the offense are sophomore receivers Tristan Holgate and Keegan Elliot. Seniors Kellen Gatzke, KC Davis and Wyatt Jones.
"Every day during summer practice, we hit the sled to get better at opening holes for the running backs," said Davis of the line. "We want to give (Medina) more time than he had last year."
Defense expects to be strong
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will look to improve with the help of several new players and an entirely new scheme.
Leading the defense will be Gatzke, who will play middle linebacker after garnering all-conference honors as a defensive end last season. Also looking to make an impact at the linebacker position will be sophomore Riley Syra.
Wallace and Donaldson will anchor the Bears defensive backfield while Davis will look to solidify the team's defensive line.
"Our defense is going to be strong," said Gatzke. "We don't have a weak spot on the field, so we're going to shut it down this year."
As usual, the Bears will face a challenging schedule that includes road matchups against Centauri (Sept. 26), Center (Oct. 9) and Ignacio (Oct. 24). Home games include a matchup against Monument Valley (Sept. 12), John Mall (Oct. 3) and Monte Vista (Oct. 17).
The Bears will open their season at home on Aug. 23 against Montezuma-Cortez High School's junior varsity team. The game will begin at 6 p.m.
"A lot of us know those guys, so it's going to be a competitive game," said Gatzke. "We're going to go out looking for a (win)."