Cowboys hope education turns program around
Much of Plateau Valley High School’s football practice is spent teaching fundamentals because the coaches must. The players aren’t versed in the game enough to delve into more complex strategy.
But Dave Bristol, in the third year of his third go-around as Plateau Valley’s head coach, said he has more players, more experience and more optimism this year.
“We think we are beginning to turn the corner, but there is lot of work to be done,” said Bristol, who enters his 28th year overall at the Cowboys’ helm.
About half of the players are freshmen and sophomores, so Bristol anticipates he still needs to do “a massive amount of fundamental teaching,” but there’s a difference from a year ago.
“We’re not coaching to survive now,” he said. “We’re not going to have to start over teaching the fundamentals completely like we’ve had to.”
Bristol also will simplify the X’s and O’s, saying at this point they’re less critical than basic skill work.
“The number of plays we’re going to try to teach kids is probably half of what it was last year,” he said.
Plateau Valley has some senior leaders who hope to reap rewards this year. Chief among them are offensive end and defensive lineman Fernando Enriquez, a first-team all-conference selection last year, and quarterback West Castro.
Enriquez leads by example, as Bristol said, “Fernando was in the weight room. He’s done everything he can to have the best senior year he can.”
Castro, meanwhile, is a study in toughness and perseverance. Bristol said Castro “tore his elbow to pieces” in an all-terrain-vehicle accident a few years ago, “didn’t really play as a sophomore,” then returned last season and competed admirably despite his throwing arm remaining well below 100 percent healthy.
Castro’s arm continues to get stronger, and Bristol said, “West really wants to be a good football player.”
Enriquez and Castro are among of the players who lead Bristol to say, “We have some pretty good athletes. We clearly have more speed than the last two years.”
The greatest team strength the coach sees, though, is a willingness to learn.
“We have younger kids who are paying attention. That’s the most exciting thing,” Bristol said.
How this year’s improvements will translate in the Class A-8 Western Conference West Division remains to be seen. Bristol acknowledges the win-loss record may not reflect how far the program has come.
He hopes this year serves as the foundation for a return to past glory.
“We’re trying to get back to where we were 10-12 years ago,” Bristol said. “And that’s: Nobody wanted to play us late in the season.”