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After two down seasons, Kofa looks to rebound
Last year: 2-8 overall, did not advance to the playoffs
Top returners: Adam Cano, OL/DL, sr.; Graham Ashby, OL/DL, sr.; Michael Klakulak, WR, sr.; Hayden Beaty, RB, sr.
Key newcomers: Michael Torres, QB, sr.; Deion Merriweather, WR/DB, jr.; Alonso Aguirre, WR/DB, jr.
The Big Game: The rivalry between Kofa and Yuma High is one of the Arizona’s longest standing traditions when it comes to high school football. It’s not about to fade away anytime soon. The Kings haven’t beaten the Criminals is three seasons, but they are hoping to change that this year. Both teams’ regular season will end with a showdown at Yuma High at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26. The Kings are determined to make this the year that gives them the bragging rights in town.
Kofa coach Kevin Moore’s comments: “We don’t have the biggest group of kids by size and numbers. It’s going to take a concerted effort from everybody we’ve got out here to give it all they’ve got all the time to get themselves into game shape. We’re going to have a lot of guys that won’t come off the field at all on Friday nights. That’s difficult playing at this level in this heat.”
The lowdown: The Kings two wins last year came against San Luis — a team entering the season with a 38-game losing streak. The offense has a big question mark at quarterback, as this is Torres’ first season playing the position. Moore said he’s confident in his QB after all the long hours he’s put to get himself ready but. All will be revealed when he takes his first snap in a game situation against Chandler on Aug. 24.
Schedule (all times 7 p.m. unless noted):
Aug. 24 vs. Chandler
Aug. 31 at Central
Sept. 7 vs. Gila Ridge
Sept. 14 at Cibola
Sept. 21 vs. San Luis
Sept. 28 vs. Palo Verde Valley
Oct. 5 vs. Lake Havasu
Oct. 12 at Mountain Pointe
Oct. 19 at San Luis
Oct. 26 at Yuma High
— Erin Redmond
That's the motto the Kofa football team is living by this year.
The Kings won only two games last season but are ready to start fresh and gain back the respect of their peers around town. They're ready to keep fighting on.
“We've been down. This is two years in a row that we've been down a little bit,” Kings coach Kevin Moore said. “This year we want to surprise some people. I don't think a lot of people think very highly of the program right now just based on wins and losses the last couple years. The big game at the end of the season against Yuma High — we want to win that. We'd like to compete and be successful against the schools in town here and kind of hold our own a little bit.”
Overcoming the adversity the Kings face is something the team must do together. In order to achieve that, they've worked a lot on team chemistry, building on the fact that they not only have to fight on, but fight together.
“Camaraderie is a big thing,” wide receiver Chris Wagner said. “I believe we've all came closer and we've bonded as a team. That's something that we need to do out there. We play like brothers, we've got to take hits for each other.”
The Kings only have a small group of returning upperclassmen on their roster this year, making the challenge of team chemistry an even bigger hurdle. The returners are faced with an overwhelming amount of new teammates to learn how to play with, let alone bond with.
But instead of becoming frustrated, the upperclassmen see this as an opportunity to teach their younger counterparts what it means to be a King.
“We want to finish on a good note. It's our last year, we've got to go down swinging,” offensive/defensive lineman Adam Cano said. “Us as seniors, we put a lot of dedication into this program and I believe we should pass that on to the underclassmen. We want them to know what it feels like to have that work pay off.”
Like his senior teammates, Michael Torres — the Kings new quarterback — wants to be a leader. In his position that would usually go without saying. But since he's relatively new to his position, he's finding it difficult to shake off the nerves.
“I'm a little nervous but I think if I perform well I think I can do good,” Torres said. “Hopefully I'll help improve the team and everybody can help me out. I'm hoping we can do good.”
Moore is confident that Torres is capable of bringing more to the table than he takes away.
Of course, inexperience is a concern, but with a quarterback like Torres, Moore believes the Kings will be a much more versatile team than in recent years.
“Last year we ran the ball a lot,” Moore said. “This year, working through the summer I think we'll be more of a 50/50 team — we'll be able to throw and run the ball as well. ... The majority of our offense is going to be driving the ball up the middle and off-tackle. Hopefully we can spread some defenses out and get the ball down the field.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to Kofa's regular season finale with Yuma High.
For the Kings, their crosstown rivalry with the Criminals will be the real test for whether or not they accomplish what they set out to. Yuma High has won the last three meetings between the teams, but the Kings' seniors are not going out without a fight.
“If we don't make playoffs — not saying that we will or that we won't — that could be our last game,” offensive/defensive lineman Graham Ashby said. “We've got to go out and leave high school with beating Yuma High.”
If the Kings can keep fighting and get that elusive win against the Crims, the seniors of Kofa are hoping they can leave something much more precious behind than a winning record.
They are hoping that they can help change the perception of their school and their team for future generations.
“I feel like we're underestimated a lot in this town,” Kings kicker/wide receiver Carlos Caratachea said. “I don't think that a lot of people have faith in us. That's kind of why we've joined as a family. All the stuff that we've been through, all the seasons. We've just got to keep fighting through the end.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6880. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSErinRedmond.