Dexter head coach Arturo Duran knows how fortunate he is, every time he pulls into Demon Stadium for morning workouts that last from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Duran has an opportunity to put last season behind him, something he and every other football coach in New Mexico thought might never happen.
There are things that must happen before teams can move to the next stage and begin practicing with footballs. Duran and the other New Mexico coaches will take being able to condition and get together with their team. Being able to put his team through the paces gives him and the players hope things are returning to normal. As long as they can practice, there’s hope football will return in the fall.
In his first two seasons, Duran was attempting to do what few coaches have done, and that’s win back-to-back championships. For Duran, being able to gather his team five players at a time, at seven different pods Monday through Thursday is the first step in building team unity.
“This is a little different,” Duran said, “you have to get used to it. You are used to implementing team so much, it is a little bit different. We cannot complain, because we get the kids out here and getting them in shape for football. The main thing is getting in shape, they have been out since March not doing much.”
These days, 6 a.m. comes early for the coaches and even earlier for his players. Duran knows until the governor has given the OK to begin football full time, conditioning will have to do.
For years, Duran was a faithful assistant, learning from this head coach and from that head coach, until he was finally given the reins to lead the Demons. In his first season, Duran won a Blue Trophy and was one of a few men to win the Blue Trophy as a player in his first year as coach. It had been 20 years since he quarterbacked the Demons to their last state title.
What sticks in Duran’s mind from last season is the last drives in which his team could not capitalize on a tired Tularosa defense. The Demons had every opportunity to score and win the game, but could not, as the dreams of another championship ended with a 22-20 loss to Tularosa on their home field.
“Momentum changed,” Duran said. “We had a play where momentum just changed to their side. We didn’t execute and they scored on us. We drove down but we were never able to score. We have to learn to overcome situations. Things happen and you have to be able to overcome them, and we couldn’t that day, and it cost us the game.”
On the fourth day of getting up early, not only is there rust in the athletes’ minds but in their bodies to keep running the stadium steps, a mile and a half while tired. If that is not enough, a group of five players are doing cone drills, with a group of five in the weight room.
As a tired group of players drink water from their water bottles before the last set of drills to finish the morning workout, the assistant coach tells the players, “Last drill men, push yourself to get through it. Short and sweet, wrong and long, get ready to go.”
“Our goal is to get the kids in shape,” Duran stated, “we want to avoid injuries. We have a great senior class coming through and we are expecting a good season.”
With any luck, summer workouts will continue, with coaches exhorting, motivating and pushing the athletes to give more than they thought was possible. Workouts seem to signal sports and life are returning to normal.
“We have a great senior class coming through,” Duran said.
Dexter is scheduled to open its season at Santa Rosa at 7 p.m. on Aug. 21.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.