When the Durango High School football team takes the field at 7 p.m. Friday in Pagosa Springs, all eyes will be on starting quarterback Jordan Woolverton.
As a freshman last season, he threw for 1,024 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception and led the Demons to an appearance in the Class 3A quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Even though the pressure is on to replicate last season’s success, Woolverton’s first task will be to outsmart the Pagosa Springs secondary. The Pirates forced 17 turnovers last season including nine interceptions from a senior-laden secondary. Javier Marinelarena returns as the team’s leader in interceptions, as he had two last season.
“Our offensive line is doing great, our receivers are doing great, and I think we’re going to go out strong (Friday) night,” Woolverton said. “We want to play physical and be confident out there. Those are the main keys to our game this year. If we’re physical, if we’re confident, there’s no one that’s going to beat us at our game this year.”
Woolverton has watched the Pirates’ tendencies on game film and knows they will match the aggression.
“(Pagosa Springs) is aggressive,” Woolverton said. “They’re going to man us up and try and push us around out there, and we just have to work around them.”
The Pirates went 6-4 last season including 4-1 in the 2A Intermountain League, which was good enough for them to earn a spot in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, where they were shutout to eventual state runner-up La Junta. Returning at the quarterback position for the Pirates is senior Cade Cowan, who threw for 129 yards and had two passing touchdowns last season.
The Pirates predominantly ran the ball last season, as they rushed for 2,208 yards as a team to only 425 yards passing. While their lead running back, Ty Kimsey, graduated last season after he ran for more than 800 yards, the Pirates return Cowan, who in addition to using his arm, could also run. He rushed for 501 yards last season and scored seven times.
Pagosa Springs also returned junior Connor Aragon, who ran for 464 yards and ranked third on the team with six rushing touchdowns.
One of the players tasked with stopping Aragon and Cowan will be DHS senior middle linebacker Gus Kidd, who will also split time on offense at the wide receiver position. Kidd said he’s “never been more ready for a game in my life,” and added that the key on defense will be communicating well.
“Everybody’s got to be on the same page,” Kidd said. “It’s not uncommon to switch positions in practice so that the strong safety will play weak safety. Everybody on defense knows their role, and we’re going to try and shut them down.”
The Demons will also have to watch out for a defense that allowed only 163 points last season, holding their opponents to one score or less five times. The heart of the defense will also be Aragon, who led the team with 67 tackles last season. Pagosa Springs was not known to get to the quarterback often, as they recorded only eight sacks.
Durango head coach David Vogt, who is in his sixth season at the helm, said that in order for Durango to get on the right side of the scoreboard, the defense will have to play aggressive against a run-heavy Pirates offense.
“The first game is always fun because you get to prepare and you get those extra weeks, and so we’ve been seeing their plays for four weeks now,” Vogt said. “The kids are dialed in for what we want them to do. The scheme has been set, and it’s all about playing super fast now. The kids will be able to relax and play fast, so it’ll be a fun game.
“We’re going to be really aggressive off the ball. We’re going to be blitzing in certain situations, apply a lot of pressure and just run through the football, trying to get turnovers.”