Numbers game turns on the banged-up Bobcats

When the Ignacio High School football team started preseason training, the numbers alone put a smile on head coach Lupe Huerta’s face.

But after a hard-hitting preseason scrimmage against Class 2A Pagosa Springs and a hard-hitting road loss at perennial 2A playoff qualifier Aspen last weekend in the regular-season opener, the numbers’ game changed Huerta’s expression.

“We got banged up pretty good against Pagosa Springs ... we lost a running back and two receivers – all shoulder injuries,” Huerta said.

All told, seven Bobcats – Class 1A in football – have been sidelined by recent injuries, forcing Huerta and his IHS coaching staff to make some rapid-fire adjustments.

“Our numbers were really good ... 43 kids on the roster to start. But now, we’re ... 30 or 32 for practice. We’re struggling at the skill positions,” Huerta said.

The banged-up 2012 Bobcats (0-1) will open the home season at 11 a.m. today against Dolores Huerta Prep of Pueblo (1-0).

A former tight end/offensive lineman, Austin Haire, will start at running back for the Bobcats.

“He’s a faster kid ... we put him in there last week, and he did a good job,” said Huerta, in his sixth season as IHS head coach.

Haire will take the ball from sophomore quarterback Adison Jones, who starts his second consecutive season as a starter. The 6-4, 210-pounder has been limited because of injuries to the Ignacio receiving corps, Huerta said.

“We do get Clayton Jefferson back this week,” he said of the junior and last year’s leading returning wide receiver.

Huerta said the Bobcats will lean on a defense that will be anchored up front by Josh Gallegos, Haire, Meds Lovato, Nicholas Gallegos (a freshman) and Kelton Richmond, among others.

Newcomer Andy Guire “will help in the middle,” Huerta said. “I think we’ll be solid up the middle on defense.”

But he’ll need help from the youngsters.

“We’ll have three freshmen ... start on defense. We’re counting on some young kids,” Huerta said.

He said the combination of injuries and long travel to Aspen made for a difficult season opener (56-0 loss).

“It was a little rough on us,” Huerta said. “But we had a good week of practice.”

Dolores Huerta Prep will present a stern test.

“They played us really tough last year ... I know they have a new coach, a new system,” the Ignacio coach said.

Dolores Huerta Prep opened the season with an 18-0 victory over Las Animas.

“I’m excited. We’ve got a good mix of kids this year,” Huerta said. “We’ve got some kids who have never played before. And we have some who haven’t played in two or three years. I’m happy to see those kids back out.”

The Bobcats, who went 4-5 last season, will play next Friday at Shiprock, then will open San Juan Basin League play Sept. 28 at Monte Vista.