It’s become almost a running joke for Durango High School head football coach David Vogt that as soon as he becomes familiar with a school and its style of play, he knows conference realignment will change during the next cycle.
The Colorado High School Activities Association’s Board of Directors approved a new football alignment for the next two-year cycle Friday, and DHS is on the move again, as the Demons will be in the Class 3A Southern 1 League for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The move was announced amidst much larger decisions made affecting Class 4A and 5A schools.
DHS will play one more year in the Class 3A South Central League with Pueblo schools – Centennial, Central, County, East and South. DHS has been in that league since the 2016 season after it moved from the former Class 4A Pikes Peak League that featured Colorado Springs’ Air Academy, Liberty, Palmer Ridge, Pine Creek and Rampart. That league alignment lasted only two years.
Beginning in 2020, the Demons will compete against schools from Colorado Springs. The league will include Discovery Canyon, Harrison, Mitchell, Sand Creek and Sierra.
“It is a bit frustrating when we change leagues so much,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “You want to be comfortable with who you’re playing and you want to know that that team is going to be good, or that they’ve got a good team coming back. Once they switch your leagues every two years, you lose that advantage of at least knowing what they’re going to do and what they did the last year. The preparation is a little bit more difficult.”
Last season, Durango went 6-5 overall and was 3-2 in the 3A South Central League with a chance to win the league title still going into the final week of the season.. The Demons made the first round of the CHSAA state playoffs but were shutout against Erie. It was the second consecutive year a mighty Erie team had knocked DHS out of the postseason, with a 2017 quarterfinal exit a year earlier.
Vogt is looking forward to facing being back in a league with Harrison, the No. 5 seed from last season’s 3A playoffs and a quarterfinalist, as well as Discovery Canyon, which also made the quarterfinals at the seventh seed last year.
With no other Class 3A football schools within Colorado in the region, Durango is forced to travel. The Demons have accepted that fate, but it is the visiting schools who are not happy about one visit every two years to Durango.
“The schools often get upset when they have to travel to us, and we seem to get kicked out every few years because they just complain about making an overnight trip down here,” Vogt said. “We do it three times a year, and these teams say that they can’t afford it, which is, well, you know. It’s tough when nobody wants to play you.”
Cañon City, which was going to be in the South Central League instead of Durango when the last realignment happened in 2018, will replace Durango in the SCL. Meanwhile, Falcon, which was in the Southern 1 League last season, moved up a classification and will compete in the Class 4A I-25 League. Discovery Canyon is another team that will have to make a change, as it was in the 3A Central League and went 3-2 in league play.
“Despite moving leagues again, I do think that being in this one is a good opportunity,” Vogt said. “This is the first time that we haven’t been in a league with a supreme powerhouse team ever since I’ve been the head coach here. We’re looking forward to facing Discovery Canyon and Harrison. Those teams are always really good, plus Discovery’s coaching staff is really great. Hopefully, we can get a bit of a rivalry with them, and then Harrison and their staff is good, we’ve played them for a couple of years. It’s good that we’re familiar with a couple of those schools.”
Last season in the 3A Southern 1 League, Harrison went undefeated at 5-0, Cañon City was second at 4-1 and Falcon was third at 3-2. The bottom three teams finished below .500 in both league play and conference, as Mitchell finished in fourth at 2-3, Sierra went 1-4 and was fifth, and Sand Creek went winless at 0-5 and 0-10 on the season.
Bayfield High SchoolAfter it forfeited the 2018 varsity season, Gunnison is no longer in a league with Bayfield and will make a drop to Class 1A beginning in 2020.
Beyond that, the three-time state champion Bayfield Wolverines did not see any restructuring to its league, though it will now be named the Class 2A Southwest League. Bayfield will be joined by regional rivals Alamosa, Montezuma-Cortez and Pagosa Springs as well as Salida, which joined the league in 2018 to replace Delta.
Ignacio High SchoolThe Bobcats did not see any changes to its Class 1A league, the Southern Peaks League.
The SPL has proved to be a tough challenge for the Bobcats with Centauri leading the way in recent years. The league is also made up of Center, Del Norte, Dolores and Monte Vista.
8-Man FootballThe Four Corners’ 8-man football Mountain League will feature Dove Creek and recently surging Mancos along with Norwood, Sanford, Sangre de Cristo, Sargent and Lake County.
Durango Herald sports editor John Livingston contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org