Durango High School has declared it’s intention to play high school football this fall.
The Demons joined area schools Bayfield, Dolores, Dove Creek, Ignacio and Mancos, which all declared their intent to play Thursday. That came after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado High School Activities Association agreed Wednesday night on variances to public health orders regarding COVID-19 to allow football to be played this fall.
“I am happy they made the right decision and switched it around,” said Durango senior quarterback Jordan Woolverton. “I can’t wait to get out there and have a fall senior season with all my guys I’ve been playing with since elementary school. We’ve all been ready to go this whole time hoping for an opportunity to play. Now that it is time to go, we are even more ready.”
CHSAA had previously sought the same variances during the summer in the hopes of playing fall football as regularly scheduled, but those plans were not approved and the football season was moved to the spring along with boys soccer and volleyball.
But, on Sept. 8, Polis indicated he would work with CHSAA again to reconsider the school sports schedule, especially where it pertained to football. He was adamant schools have the options to either play in the spring or fall based on each district’s unique circumstances concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
CHSAA and the governor’s office went back-and-forth for more than a week before Wednesday’s final decision to allow fall football. The key variance will now allow 50-player roster limits per team, up from 25 total players and coaches combined on a single field at one time.
With that variance approved, CHSAA’s Board of Directors approved a fall football season in a 12-3 vote. Each school was then given the option of whether or not to play in the fall or the spring, but not both. And while some schools in larger metro areas such as Denver have opted to keep a spring season, roughly 80% of Colorado schools have now declared for the fall, including Durango.
Durango School District 9-R had no official announcement Friday, though Durango’s fall declaration had already been submitted to CHSAA.
“As it is right now, we are leaning toward moving to Season A for football in the fall,” said Durango 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp. “We are making a final determination right now and making a formal announcement to the community on Monday. At that time, we will also be announcing what will happen with middle school and other fall sports like cheer and dance.”
Football practices will begin Sept. 24 and games are set to kick off Oct. 8.
Teams, no matter which season they decide to play, will be given a six-game schedule produced by CHSAA. There will be a state playoff in both the fall and the spring with an eight-team bracket. Schools that do not qualify for the state playoffs can play an additional seventh game if desired.
Durango was placed in a new league for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. In the Colorado Springs-based Class 3A Southern 1 League, Durango has joined Discovery Canyon and Mitchell to declare for the fall. However, Harrison and Sierra have opted for a spring season. It is possible Durango will be placed into a new league for this season. Schedules are expected to be released next week.
The Demons could replace Cañon City in the Southern 2 League and rejoin former league rivals from Pueblo. Or, it is possible Durango might play more of a Western Slope-based schedule against schools such as Palisade.
“I’m very anxious to see the schedule,” Woolverton said. “I’m a little disappointed a couple of those schools in our league opted out until spring, but I am very excited to see who we are going to play so we can study up on these teams and see what we can do against them.”
After reading CHSAA’s plans for the new football season, including the six-game schedule and eight-team playoff, DHS head coach David Vogt emphasized the importance of every play in every game for a Demons team that has Class 3A state championship aspirations in 2020 behind a talented offensive line and the play of Woolverton, who is surrounded with college-caliber weapons in Ben Finneseth and Gage Mestas among others. DHS also returns a talented defense.
Durango came up one score short of reaching the state semifinals a year. It was a 21-14 quarterfinal loss to Pueblo South, which finished as the state runner-up.
“We have a lot of guys with common goals and big dreams,” Woolverton said. “We all have the same work ethic and push each other to be the best we can. It has made our team way better and tighter. Our expectations this year are to come out with a state championship. We are all going to do everything to achieve that goal. It’s going to be a good year for Durango football.”
DHS will play three home games, though the opponents are not yet clear. Woolverton’s goal is to bring another state playoff game to the Demons’ home stadium.
Fan capacity will be limited to 175 spectators, for now. Durango 9-R Athletic Director Ryan Knorr has previously indicated he would give priority to the families of players and would make tickets available to purchase before the day of the game.
“Playing here in Durango, there’s nothing like it,” Woolverton said. “Our home field with our fans, it’s special. I don’t know how it will look with fans being able to come this year, but we know everyone will be supporting us over the radio or on a live stream. I am pumped to put that Durango jersey on a few more times at home and play for the Durango Demons. It’s an opportunity we don’t take for granted.”