The Durango High School football team is loaded with playmakers in 2017.
Offensively, the Demons returned the bulk of their skill position players from 2016. Top rusher Dawson Marcum, who averaged a little under 78 yards per game and found the end zone 11 times as a sophomore, is back to help lead the charge. Senior wide receiver Gavin Mestas, who torched opposing secondaries for close to 20 yards per catch and eight touchdowns last season, has All-State potential this fall.
“Our offensive is loaded with weapons,” said senior quarterback Max Hyson. “We have Kade Jackson, Alex Hyson and Gavin – those are probably three of the fastest kids in the state. It’s going to put defenses in binds. They’ll have to pick one of them, and we can go to another. And with Dawson and Everett (Howland) running the ball, I think this is going to be a good season.”
Hyson, who spent most of last year at running back, will give the Demons a dual-threat option at quarterback. Durango head coach David Vogt said the running ability of Hyson will help open up the offense by forcing opposing defenses to respect him as a running threat.
Making the transition from running back to quarterback during the summer has been a blast for Hyson, who said he has enjoyed the mental side of the change, such as learning receivers’ routes and how to better read the defense. His progression has taken a leap during the past few weeks.
“He’s definitely one of those players who wants to work harder. He’s a very knowledgeable guy, and he always wants to learn more,” Mestas said of Hyson. “He’s probably the hardest worker on the team, both on and off the field. It’s a pleasure playing with him, and I’m excited to have one more year with him.”
The biggest issue facing the Demons’ offense right now is the offensive line.
For all the talent the Demons have on the outside and in the backfield, it won’t do them any good if they can’t find openings in the running game and maintain a clean pocket in the passing game. Never known for its overpowering size, Durango will rely on its quickness up front to find success. Already the line is starting to show big improvements.
“They’ve grown a lot, actually,” Marcum said. “They’re learning from new coaches and their schemes. They’ve come a long way for sure. I wouldn’t say we have the biggest line, but we have a fast line for sure. And a fast line can do a lot.”
Defensively, the Demons won’t have to look far for their spark.
Manasseh Brockus, a senior linebacker who has a habit of breaking his facemask with hard hits, is back to lead the defense after registering 103 total tackles a season ago.
Brockus, a four-year varsity player, said this year’s team doesn’t boast as many star athletes as past years, but this year’s Demons play with more passion and grit, which fuels his intensity on the field.
“I draw it from the team,” Brockus said of his passion and intensity. “Throughout life, people go through struggles, but for me, one thing that has always been there is that team and that unity. I draw my strength from them. Just being able to look over at the next guy and know he’s giving 110 percent gives me more juice to go in the next play and mess things up.”
The Demons open up the season Thursday hosting Class 2A Delta at DHS Stadium. The opener will be the first of a three-game home stretch for the team. The Demons’ Class 3A South Central League opener will come Oct. 6 at preseason No. 1 Pueblo East.
The team received two votes in the CHSAA preseason poll, which would rank the Demons 13th.
Durango went 7-4 overall last year and 4-1 in league, with the lone loss a 24-20 home defeat to Pueblo East. Durango lost 27-19 to Silver Creek in the first round of last year’s state playoffs.
With three consecutive home games before a four-game road trip, the Demons are looking to create momentum at home early in the season.
“We love our stands and how crazy our fans get in the student section. Our boys love playing here,” Vogt said.
“We don’t lose here very much, so that’s a great advantage for us to start off with three home games.”