A new year comes with high expectations for the Durango High School football team. It kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday.
After a 56-12 beatdown of Montezuma-Cortez High School last Friday in a preseason exhibition game, the 10th-ranked Class 3A Demons will welcome another Class 2A Intermountain League foe in Pagosa Springs when the season kicks off for real at DHS Stadium. The Demons have similar goals as a week ago, and that is to build a big lead early and allow younger players to get on the field in the second half to build more depth going into a grueling season and a huge 3A matchup a week later at home against No. 3 Palisade.
The Demons believe they can have similar success Friday to that of a year ago in the season-opening 34-6 road win at Pagosa.
“We know what to expect out of them from last season when we played them,” said DHS junior quarterback Jordan Woolverton. “We have the film and can prepare. I’m excited to get out there for our first actual game and play something that will actually count.”
A season ago, Durango finished 6-5 overall and reached the first round of the state playoffs. Pagosa Springs went 3-6 and narrowly missed a playoff spot. Led by head coach Myron Stretton, the Pirates have a 11-17 record over the last three years, including a 5-9 mark on the road.
Paden Bailey is back to lead the Pirates run game. Last season, he led Pagosa Springs with 571 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Mitch Lewis is also back at wide receiver for the Pirates after he led the team last season with 397 yards and three touchdowns on 21 receptions. Bailey also caught four touchdowns a year ago as part of nine receptions for 228 yards.
Lewis is also Pagosa’s leading returning tackler from a year ago, as he had 66 tackles to finish second on the team. He also led the squad with four sacks. Bailey finished with 57 total tackles.
The Pagosa Springs roster lists a pair of quarterbacks with the same last name in junior Grant Aucoin and freshman Aaron Aucoin. Grant is also a standout linebacker.
Last week, Durango’s starting defense didn’t surrender a point and gave up only one first down to Montezuma-Cortez.
“It was get to get our foot in the door and show what we can do on defense,” said linebacker Everett Howland. “It was a great thing to feel and a great tone to set to start like that.”
DHS will look to Woolverton to lead the offense after he went 8-of-10 for 188 yards and two touchdowns last week in the scrimmage. In the game, he hit Ben Finneseth and Gage Mestas for long touchdowns and also connected with Niko Mestas and Breyton Jackson.
Howland ran the ball only twice, and he turned both into touchdowns with 70 yards.
“Pagosa lost some good guys from last year, and we lost some,” Howland said. “But we’ve had kids take over spots we never expected. I think it’s going to be a really good game, but I think we’re going to get a win. Guarantee it.”