Durango High School already has eyes on the 2019 football season.
Last year, the Demons finished 6-5 and were eliminated in the first round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state playoffs. Durango played the second toughest schedule in all of Class 3A last year, and much of that was designed to toughen the team up with eyes at a deep playoff run in 2019.
Now, the Demons are already hard at work to prepare for a 10-game schedule that features only four home games and the same difficult opponents as a year ago. With early practices underway this week, Durango will offer its first look to the public with a scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday at the DHS stadium.
“In my opinion, we’re looking stronger in this offseason than we have in a lot of others,” said senior lineman Carver Willis, a recent verbal commit to Kansas State University. “We have a lot of sophomores who are going to be making big moves. They’re working their tails off and really going to make an impact on the field, as well as (Jordan Woolverton’s) work with different coaches and all of that. We’ve got new leaders rising up, and I like the look of the team.”
Woolverton will be a junior this season, and the talented quarterback will have weapons around him for a big year. He’s coming off a spring and summer full of traveling to college camps and working with elite coaches, and he’s eager to bring what he learned back to his teammates.
“I’ve been taking all the different coaching advice from so many top college programs and putting it all together,” Woolverton said. “It’s honestly awesome to bring it back and tell the guys all about it and be able to coach them up on some things to help them better their game. It makes us that much better.”
His big arm will be on display this weekend following a week of practice in which head coach David Vogt has planned to install half of the team’s offensive and defensive playbooks. Everything is being done with a focus on the team playing deep into November.
“We had a tough loss last season in the first round,” Woolverton said. “We are coming back with many good players, and I’m excited to see what the team can do. We are big up front this year, have a lot of weapons around the field and a lot of talent out there.”
CHSAA allows teams 10 days of offseason practice to use how they want, provided the teams follow protocol of when they are allowed to wear pads and helmets. Vogt was eager to get some work in during the middle of July following up some seven-on-seven camps.
“It’s always good to start early because you can install stuff better and focus primarily on learning,” Vogt said. “We are going really slow, teaching the fundamentals of proper blocking, tackling and catching. Every day, we are increasing what we are teaching them. By Saturday, they should have almost half of the offense and defense put in, and that’s a good start for us.”
For leaders such as Willis and senior Everett Howland, the week is an opportunity to help younger players get comfortable playing amongst the varsity veterans.
“My goal is to show them the ropes,” Willis said. “Incoming freshmen, there’s not too much expectation on them, but you want them to relax. Everyone has a different learning curve. Stances can take awhile to figure out, and our offense isn’t the easiest to understand. I want to be there to help them where I can and teach them to love the game. The biggest thing is about loving football and helping them want to come back each year.”
DHS won’t have its full roster at this week’s scrimmage, with a few players out for summer baseball. But football participation is on the rise not only in Durango but around the state. According to Ryan Casey of CHSAANow.com, football participation grew 6% in Colorado last season with 16,888 players, the most since the 2012-13 season. Former DHS athletic director Adam Bright, who is now an assistant commissioner for CHSAA serving on the football committee, said it was the seventh-largest football turnout since 2000, and he is hopeful to maybe see 17,000 players at Colorado high schools in 2019.
Football also grew, up 6% from last year, and it's 16,888 participants is the sport's highest figure since 2012-13. #copreps— Ryan Casey (@jryancasey) July 15, 2019
After the scrimmage Saturday, the team will have a fundraiser barbecue. It will cost $10 per plate.
“That’s big for us to help fundraise for the team for travel and all of that stuff,” Vogt said. “We appreciate the support.”