Building character: Central Warriors taking lumps, but not afraid of trying hard

Central High School coach Todd Dixon discusses strategy with his young team during a loss this season to Fruita Monument. One year after going 10-0 in the Southwestern League, the Warriors are taking their lumps after graduating seven seniors last spring.

Central coach Todd Dixon is determined to make the Warriors’ program into a perennial winner, and has enjoyed coaching the team this season despite a losing record.

Brittany Hoppe was part of the success the Central High School girls basketball team enjoyed the past two seasons.

Now she’s one of only two players back from a group that went 40-12 and made runs to the Class 5A Elite Eight in 2009 and the Sweet 16 in 2010.

One year removed from a 10-0 Southwestern League record, the Warriors are 1-15, 0-5 in league play.

“It really builds character when you are on a team like this,” said Hoppe, a junior point guard. “No one likes to lose, but it’s about coming out every day and trying hard.”

Seven seniors graduated last spring, and a handful decided not to play this season, some choosing to concentrate on their primary sport.

“There are some kids walking these halls that are seniors who decided not to play,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “Whether they specialized or decided it would be too tough, we show up to work with whoever comes out.”

The Warriors have only one senior, post Amanda Chaffin.

“I’m out because I love the game,” Chaffin said. “Some didn’t want to come out because they knew this season would be tough, but I love basketball and this is the last year I get to play.”

Central has been handed plenty of lopsided losses this season, losing to Durango 91-14, Montrose 75-12 and Fruita Monument 63-18.

“It’s a downside of last year,” Hoppe said. “We had such a good team, and I’m not saying we ran the score up, but we were tough.

“This year they are kind of getting back at us, but it’s not like any of the girls from our team are from last year except me and Amanda.”

This has been one of Dixon’s toughest seasons.

He took over the program before the 2008-09 season and had all the pieces in place for success. The Warriors had a group of talented female athletes in last year’s senior class, led by Amy Kame, who is now playing at the University of San Diego.

After two successful seasons, Dixon had opportunities to pursue coaching jobs on the Front Range, but decided he wanted to stay at Central.

“I could have come in, robbed the cupboard, then taken off,” Dixon said. “But I’m determined to make the program better.

“We have a lot to do for Central. I want this program to be a lighthouse that shows you can invest into your school, you can invest into your teammates, you can invest into your friends, and do something that’s maybe bigger than yourself.”

Dixon has maintained all season that he’s enjoyed coaching this team.

“I haven’t had a season this bad as far as record, but I can say in the groups I’ve coached in the past 12 years, this group is in the top five,” Dixon said. “I enjoy coming to work because they look you in the eye and they want to go.

“I’ve had winning seasons that were just miserable because they never reached their potential, but this group has exceeded where we thought we could be.”

No team wants to admit that they are playing for next season, but that’s the situation for the Warriors. Every practice and game is giving a roster full of underclassmen just a little more experience.

Central has six more opportunities to get another win, beginning tonight at home against Eagle Valley. Regardless of how many wins the Warriors finish with, Dixon said this team has learned plenty from its hardships.

“People forget that there are great lessons in losing,” Dixon said. “You have to teach them that falling down isn’t the failure, it’s not getting back up that’s the failure.

“This group has gotten back up every time after falling.”


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