Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Fall equals football for many folks across the country.
For Durango, fall arrives today.
The Durango High School football team heads to Cheyenne Mountain today to kick off the 2012 campaign with a new quarterback, new running back and new expectations.
This season marks Year 4 of the Greg Wyatt regime as the Demons seek their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, with the previous three coming under their current head coach. As far as Durango’s head man is concerned, 2012 has provided one of the most exciting preseason camps in his tenure.
“It’s been one of our better camps if not our best,” Wyatt said. “We’re still young, so that’s going to be our challenge – are our young guys ready to step up? We’ll find out.”
Durango will have to replace two-year starting quarterback Joe Keresey, leading receiver Easton Garcia and leading rusher Dakota Sutherlin from last year’s 5-7 squad.
They’ll look to plug the hole at quarterback with speedy Jeremy Szura, who also will double as a defensive back. Behind him are backups Alex Lavenue and Hayden Sill, both sophomores, who may or may not be pressed into duty in today’s opener with Szura a bit banged up.
Junior Tyler Worley looks to be the backfield’s workhorse in Sutherlin’s stead, with senior Lucas Sinnig also returning.
Senior offensive lineman Austin Miles said he’s excited about the depth of the group he’ll be opening holes for this season.
“We’re stacked on running backs. We’re deep,” said Miles, son of Hugh and Mary Miles. “We go three or four deep with running backs, and quarterback, same thing. ... Our offense is going to make our team this year, I think.”
Blake Dunlap and Garrett Marcum will be expected to carry most of the load at wide receiver and defensive back and will be helped offensively by tight end Demetre Cullison. Dunlap appeared to be the prototypical utility man at Thursday’s practice, working as a kicker, receiver, defensive back and return man.
The biggest strength offensively might be the biggest guys on the field – the offensive line. Miles, all 6-5 and 310 pounds of him, returns for his senior season at guard, while the Demons hope that Robert Moore, Skyler Dobbs, Austin Daigle and Jonathan Yagunich, among others, will keep defenses in check.
Miles said Yagunich, who will replace Trevor Gillen at center, nearly was moved to the backfield. His offensive line mates, however, weren’t having it.
“He’s a great center. They were actually thinking of taking him and making him a running back, but we didn’t want them to because we feel he’s like the mother of our line,” Miles said. “He does a really good job.”
Defensively, Wyatt said he’s excited by the fact the roster’s depth gives the Demons an opportunity to have a larger group focus on playing just one side of the ball than in previous years.
“We were very aggressive on defense (in last week’s scrimmage with BHS),” Wyatt said. “We’ve got lots of room to improve on both sides, but I was very enthused by the effort and the execution.”
There’s still some big holes to fill up front, as DHS will have to replace All-Southwestern League first-team pick Gillen and honorable mention Dalton Hamer along the front four. The depth of the linebacking corps will be key as DHS looks to get more stout up front in an SWL that had five 1,000-yard rushers a season ago.
The Demons at least will get their feet wet close to home. After today’s road game, the next four contests will be either in Durango or Farmington before a two-game road trip to face the Grand Junction schools.
It’ll be a roller coaster of competition, with five opponents having won five or fewer games last season and the other five winning eight or more. A win or two against some of the more successful teams might be all DHS needs to punch its Class 4A postseason ticket.
But the time for predictions and the wait for cracking pads is over.
It’s finally game day.