SANTA FE, N.M. — The numbers are better than expected. The players are in better shape.
Last season’s results are tucked away neatly in the past, paving the way for a future looking brighter than ever.
With such optimism in the air, it can only mean one thing: It’s the first Monday of August, which is the official start of two-a-day football practices throughout the state.
From last season’s 1-9 Class 4A Capital Jaguars to the defending 3A champion St. Michael’s Horsemen to the 4A Santa Fe Demons, who concluded the 2012 season somewhere in between, the buzz around the City Different was all good cheer.
“Nobody plans on having a bad year,” Capital coach Bill Moon said. “If you measure where we were with where we are, we’re great.”
And Moon’s optimism stems from the 53 players who turned up to this Monday’s start of practice, which is up from fewer than 25 players when he took over the program roughly two months before the start of last season.
Across town at Santa Fe High, Ray Holladay officially conducted his fifth official first day of practice. And coming off a season where the Demons took the District 2-4A title to secure their first playoff berth in more than two decades, spirits were high as well – but so too were expectations.
“Every year we’ve been here the expectations have risen,” said Holladay, who had roughly 80 players at the start of camp. “But now, it’s not just internal expectations … it’s external expectations. We have to prove to the community that last year wasn’t a fluke – that the program is headed in the right direction. So this year, we expect to win the district again and we expect to be a top eight seed and host a playoff game.
“We exorcised a lot of Demons from the past and now … we expect to advance in the tournament.”
No need to remind St. Mike’s coach Joey Fernandez of lofty expectations – it sort of comes with the territory after earning three state titles as the Horsemen head coach, capped by 13-0 season last year.
But despite graduating the bulk of their linemen, their star running back, their leading receiver and quarterback, Fernandez isn’t concerned.
Not even a little bit.
“We put these kids through a lot this summer, and they are in the best shape of any team I’ve had at the start of two-a-days,” he said. “We’re small and we need to use our speed to win games this year.
“… Sure, we got a lot of inexperience in a lot of positions, but come first game, we’re going to be better. It may take us a little longer to get moving, but I’m excited. … The expectations for us are always high – we expect to win. I never use the term ‘rebuilding.’ I like to think of it as ‘reloading.'”