Fort Lewis College is excited about this year’s product on the football field.
The program is excited by all of this year’s intangibles, too.
FLC will host New Mexico Highlands at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ray Dennison Memorial Field to start its regular season. The home opener will serve as the Skyhawks’ Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener, as well.
And Week 1 is Youth Day, too.
“We want to have our communities more involved with what we are doing up at FLC with football,” head coach Cesar Rivas-Sandoval said in a news release. “Our players and staff have a vested interest in bringing the youth from the Four Corners region in and around our program. They are what we hope to be a large portion of our talent for years to come.
“Plus, our players love having the young kids around. Durign our summer youth camps, our players say it’s the most fun they get to have all summer.”
Children age 12 and under will be admitted free of charge for Saturday’s game; children ages 6-12 typically face $3 admissions.
Before the game, Bent Urban Sports Bar & Grill will host a tailgate party at 11 a.m. in the parking lot east of the stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, BBQ grills and pop-up tents to celebrate the home opener pregame with friends. Prizes will be awarded for best tailgating experience and enthusiasm.
Stadium gates will open at noon, and the Skyhawk Booster Club once again will sponsor a hospitality area. CJ’s Diner, Coca-Cola of Durango and A&L Coors will be featured.
“We are excited about our improved hospitality area and are encouraging our fans to come early and enjoy the entertainment,” FLC athletic director Gary Hunter said in the news release.
Adult tickets cost $10, while senior citizens (65 and over) and students (13-18) will be admitted for $5. FLC faculty, staff and students will be admitted free with their school identifications. Season-ticket packages also are available: 20-punch passes for $150 and all-sport and hospitality passes for $250.
On the field, the Skyhawks warmed up for their regular season with a 47-13 exhibition victory over Cole College last Saturday at Recht Field in Boulder.
N.M. Highlands (1-0) defeated Eastern N.M. 42-14.
“I believe they will have as much or more talent than anyone in our conference this year, so we will have a great indication of where we fit in the race for a conference title by late Saturday afternoon,” Rivas said.
The Cowboys lead the series 25-15, but the Skyhawks have won the last two meetings, including a 36-13 victory two years ago in Durango and a more modest 6-3 win last year in Las Vegas, N.M.
Tim Jenkins again will quarterback the Skyhawks, his fourth consecutive year under center. With 7,040 passing yards, the 6-3, 220-pound senior is 178 yards shy of third place all-time in FLC history.
He’ll throw to returners Jonathan Price, Dylan Bode and Jesse Freeman, and he’ll hand off to sophomore Van Gramman. He’ll be protected by three returning offensive linemen: Evan Wagstrom, Estevan Lucero and Antonio Alicea.
“We’re looking for our guys up front to really step up,” Rivas said.
On defense, FLC will return three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs, including All-RMAC ’backer Phil Odell.
“He’s been a very productive football player the past three years in the conference, and opposing coaches have noticed,” Rivas said.
“We’re a lot more competitive at each position,” Rivas said of the Skyhawks’ record 123-player roster. “We’re not thinking too much about our schedule yet. The kids who have been in the program are a year older and bigger, faster, stronger. Every year that you’re at a place, your recruiting class gets better. We added some age and some experience at a lot of key positions.”