The Ignacio High School football team is on the rise.
After going 0-9 in 2015, the Bobcats notched three wins last season and are eager to keep trending upward in 2017 as they continue to take on the identity third-year head coach Alfonso Garcia envisioned.
“The kids are buying into what we’re teaching, and they’re definitely adapting to the schemes and what we’re doing,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to say it’s been a 360-degree turnaround because there are a lot of things we still need to improve on, but they’ve come a long way.”
The Bobcats are young this year, listing only five seniors on the roster. They will have a tough task replacing the production of last year’s large graduating class. Part of the focus in the summer was to get the Bobcats better physically prepared for the season.
“We had the weight room open all summer and I was happy,” Garcia said. “Expectations will be way different; we want to be more successful and hopefully we accept that challenge.”
With all the work in the weight room, this year’s Bobcats will look a lot different than Garcia’s first two seasons. He said the team went from having 160-pound kids playing the offensive line to fielding a few players at 200-plus pounds up front.
Helping lead the interior line will be senior Natani Cundiff and junior Dustin Sanchez.
The added size and strength in the trenches will be a big boost to Ignacio’s offense, which will look to Trace Lovelace to fill the void at quarterback after Zach Weinreich, who is now playing for Fort Lewis College, graduated in the spring.
“He’s got a lot to learn because he’s never played quarterback before,” Garcia said of Lovelace. “That’s going to be a new spot, but hopefully having some bigger linemen will help him feel more comfortable.”
Garcia said he knows the quarterback position could take some time to get ironed out, but once Lovelace gets comfortable he’ll have plenty of options to target.
Senior Kruz Pardo and junior Lawrence Valdez were two of the Southern Peaks League’s swiftest runners in 2016, and seniors Marcus Chapman, Cole McCaw and Nate Herrera along with sophomore Ocean Hunter will bring experience to the Bobcat team.
Ignacio will open its season Aug. 26 hosting Ellicott. Last year, Ignacio ventured to El Paso County for the season opener. The Thunderhawks shook off a slow start at home to humble the Bobcats 52-15.
“Out there, you know, we were looking for a game and they were a very good squad,” Garcia said. “Ellicott is coached well, but our kids last year felt we should have done much better. During the game we were up and down (the field), but hopefully this year we’ll put it in the end zone.”