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Gateway using summer to get in shape

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Gateway Christian head football coach Shawn Wigley emphasizes getting in shape during summer drills. (Mike Smith Photo)

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Teenagers practicing football — that could be a title that some student-athletes at Gateway Christian School could use when asked to write an essay on how they spent summer vacation.

Summer workouts started July 7, according to head coach Shawn Wigley. He said the program is voluntary as the players show up for morning and evening practice.

“They just get some reps in,” Wigley said. “We do a lot of conditioning in the morning when it’s cooler and we get out here and then do a lot of footwork and run some drills at night.”

Wigley emphasizes to his players that now is the best time to start getting in shape.

“If you don’t get into shape now, seasons are too short and games are too important to try and get in shape a third of the way through the season,” Wigley said. “There’s no way to get in football shape without getting to play football. So you’ve got to take care of all this conditioning stuff in the summertime and be ready to go.”

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Wigley says if the players aren’t in shape once the season starts, then the likelihood for injuries is greater.

“You’ve got to get all that stuff out now, so those muscles are in condition and ready to go for actual football,” Wigley said.

Two-a-days start on Aug. 7 and Wigley said the majority of the team is expected to be on hand.

“You can start getting helmets on and pads and you can start doing football-specific stuff,” Wigley said. “Now, it’s more getting in shape, running around and throwing the football and doing stuff like that; and teaching them the mental reps and getting them in football shape. That’s the difference between being in good shape and being in football shape.”

Wigley defines football shape as the body taking a hit and wearing protective padding.

“Getting your head used to wearing the helmet (and) your mouth used to the mouthpiece,” Wigley said. “The difference is in the summer, you’re not wearing pads and there’s no way to simulate that until you get it on and start running around with those pads on and getting contact and getting up and getting your body used to getting hit and playing through that type of intensity.”

Last season, the Warriors were 5-4-1 and lost to Mountainair 70-34 in the second round of the 8-Man playoffs. Wigley described the season as solid.

“I think we had a lot of guys last year that didn’t play a lot of football,” Wigley said. “We got better as the year went on and that was good. If you see improvement game-to-game, you know you’re headed in the right direction.”

Going into the quarterfinal game against the Mustangs, Wigley felt Gateway played better in the second half, despite the first half advantage that Mountainair had.

“It was just like too little too late,” Wigley said. “We had a good season.”

The Warriors lost three seniors from last season in Marco Grajeda, Maverick Grimm and Dominic Gomez.

“We’ll have more veteran leadership this season than we did last year in terms of numbers,” Wigley said.

Wigley is looking to quarterback Wyatt Arlet to guide the team this year.

“This will be his second year starting at quarterback,” Wigley said. “Having a year playing under his belt and making strides last year in things that were new to him, this year is going to be more repetitive, so you can get a little further.”

Caleb Curtis, Gage Estes, Ryan Ellis, Andrew Sanchez and Jacob Truetken are expected to provide the Warriors with some senior leadership as well.

This year, athletic districts in New Mexico are seeing some changes as the New Mexico Activities Association has done away with the six classes in favor of five. Gateway will still compete in District 3, 8-Man. However, they will have two new opponents as Mescalero Apache has moved up to 2A and Carrizozo has gone down to 6-Man.

Melrose and Dora are the new kids on the block.

“The district is important,” Wigley said. “But in 8-Man, everybody that plays is going to be part of the (playoff) seeding process, so we’ve just got to win when we can and we know most of the schools that are in it year-in and year-out, and there’s always going to be one team that surprises you.”

Wigley feels that the district Gateway competes in is the toughest in the state, and the teams to beat will be Melrose, Tatum and Mesilla Valley Christian. Melrose is the defending state champions.

“Dora was tough last year. I assume they’ll be tough this year,” Wigley said.

Last year, the Coyotes beat the Warriors, 62-31 during a non-district contest.

“In 8-Man, kids will graduate, but you’ve got a lot of kids in junior high coming up and you’ve got a lot of eighth, ninth and 10th graders that will start,” Wigley said. “From one year to the next, a kid can grow a lot and do a lot of good. A year can change a lot at this age. I expect every one of them will be tough.”

The Warriors start the season Aug. 24 against Tatum at home.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.