Conventional football wisdom says that players and teams make their biggest jump between Week 1 and Week 2.
The Durango High School football team went back to basics to make sure that’s the case.
Blocking and tackling were among the biggest bugaboos last week in a 48-9 season-opening loss to Cheyenne Mountain, and they were the biggest areas of focus for the Demons this week in practice.
“It’s been 100-percent focus. We spent a lot of time on tackling, taking it all the way back to the very basics,” head coach Greg Wyatt said. “Moving from body position and being in the right spot, knowing your assignment to ... wrapping up.”
It was evident Wyatt and his staff wanted to drill the point home Thursday at the team’s walk-through. Even though there was no tackling involved, Wyatt still pushed a few players to still use proper technique even though they weren’t going to be finishing the tackle, and DHS spent time ensuring that substitutes knew who they were going in for by subbing on the fly, testing the players’ focus.
Running back and defensive back Ty Worley said the message found its mark as Durango heads into tonight’s home opener against Kirtland Central.
“I’d have to say tackling; we didn’t really do that great last week at tackling. We worked a lot on that in practice and definitely just having our fundamentals down,” said Worley, son of Crystal Mendisco and Noah Worley.
Ryan McMahon, James Michael Sullivan and Sharrell Bell played a big role as eye-openers for the Durango coaching staff. The trio accounted for all seven touchdowns for Cheyenne Mountain last week, often slipping tackles or taking advantage of blown assignments en route to the end zone.
“It was a great lesson for us,” Wyatt said. “We’ve been tackling and hitting each other for weeks, and to go out there and see that there are guys that are very talented and very competitive and that we’ve got to step up our game to be in the same category.”
It would be easy to point a finger at Durango’s move to a more up-tempo offense this season as a culprit for the struggles on that side of the ball a week ago. However, Wyatt said the video didn’t bear that out. He said that on film, the problems appeared to be more of a mental nature rather than not being physically capable of moving the offense at a brisk pace.
“I think in some ways on the offensive side it was perhaps maybe thinking too much, and we’ve tried to simplify and let the kids go and play. You have a bad couple of plays, and maybe it gets in your head a little bit,” Wyatt said.
Not having their starting quarterback didn’t help matters much for the Demons, either. Jeremy Szura’s status for today’s game remains unknown, meaning Alex Lavenue would get the call again under center after splitting time with the now-injured Hayden Sill last week.
Lavenue said for him, personally, he’s been placing more focus on the details this week in the hopes of guiding a more potent offense than the one that struggled in Colorado Springs.
“We need to improve a lot on the little things, I guess,” said Lavenue, son of the head coach Greg Wyatt and his wife, Wendy Wyatt. “Make sure we get all the handoffs right and get all the screens. If we do all the little things and the easy plays right, we could have a good game.”
One big change is certain. DHS will hit the field in new uniforms, which are emblazoned with the initials RAD to honor Robert “Bobbie” DeGuelle, who got the ball rolling on donations for the uniforms before his death in May – a process completed by his family. A victory in the home opener is another way DHS hopes to honor him.
That victory likely will be a matter of the little things if it goes Durango’s way.
“If we don’t take care of the fundamentals, we’re going to struggle all year, and we’ll struggle against anybody, so we’ve definitely got to be solid on the fundamentals,” Wyatt said.