Countdown to kickoff: Starters still undecided as Fruita preps for first game
The Fruita Monument High School football team still has a lot of questions to be answered before tonight’s season opener against Broomfield at Stocker Stadium.
For starters, who’s going to be starting?
In an attempt to create continued competition during practice, first-year head coach Shawn Marsh said his coaching staff wasn’t going to announce any starting positions until Thursday night or later.
“We’ll put together a group, but we’re not quite sure who it’s going to be just yet,” Marsh said earlier this week. “One thing we know is we have a lot of good kids and we are trying to get them all put into the exact positions. It’s not easy, but we have to have it figured out by Friday night.”
Marsh’s approach is to allow all 120 players on the practice field feel like they have an equal shot at playing time.
“Every one of our freshmen practice with our JV and varsity. We all practice together,” Marsh said. “So we’ll compete throughout the whole season, and there is nothing set in stone. As soon as you have guys who think they don’t have to work, they become complacent and they don’t get better every day.”
What a player accomplished last season has been thrown out. Junior running back Devin Dance was a spark for the Wildcats in the second half of the season, and turned in a two-touchdown rushing performance against Westminster.
As of the middle of the week, Dance said he didn’t know if he’ll be starting tonight.
“It’s gotten everyone a lot better because if you know someone is starting in front of you, you don’t push quite as hard,” Dance said. “And if you are starting, it’s like ‘Oh, I’ve got it made,’ so if you don’t know and there is someone going just as hard as you, it makes it a lot more challenging.”
It’s hard to argue Marsh’s reasoning. Although it might be Marsh’s first year with the Wildcats, he’s spent more than 20 years coaching high school and college football in the Grand Valley.
“You have a good athlete like Devin who’s trying to find their position and they are going to have to work all year,” Marsh said. “If you have kids that come out here and work every day because they want to make sure that they are going to have a spot, that’s when you have a chance to become a decent team.”
The Wildcats will find out what kind of team they have before anyone else in the valley. Fruita Monument is the only local team playing this week.
“I like the zero week game because kids are ready to get after it,” Marsh said. “You get a week off during the season somewhere, so I like zero week, and I always have.”
Fruita has a solid test out of the gate with Broomfield, which went 7-3 last season but didn’t qualify for the postseason.
“We feel a lot better about this year,” Fruita Monument linebacker Trey Thygerson said. “We know (Broomfield) is a good team, but we want to beat them.”
The Wildcats have adjusted to the new offensive and defensive schemes that Marsh has implemented, but tonight is their first opportunity to see how well they have it down.
“We want to be able to see how we can execute the offense, defense and special teams package that we’ve put in,” Marsh said. “It’s going to let us know what our kids can do against other competition.
“We know what our offense can do against our defense, but we don’t know what we can do against anyone else, so it’ll let us know where we stack up against a very good team.”