With only 3 returning starters, Fruita Monument's work ethic is key
Experience abounded a year ago, but for all of Fruita Monument’s senior returning starters, the final record was 4-6, and the Wildcats fell short of making Class 5A’s 32-team football playoff field once again.
Now, experience is minimal. Wildcats coach Sean Mulvey has three returning starters: center Chase Clayton, tackle Gage Haggerman and wide receiver Jake Basinger.
But Mulvey feels good about what he saw in the offseason and believes Fruita can field a better team this year.
When discussing this year’s players, he repeatedly spoke about their attitude, work ethic and selflessness, and he said he can build on that.
He said it showed in the weight room and the football camps, and he adjusted his schedule to get more of the multisport athletes to show up for 7-on-7 camps, where attendance increased as a result.
“We have a lot of kids who played really well last season. They’re a dedicated, focused, hard-working, strong group,” Mulvey said. “The maturity of our junior class and the good kids we have coming in as sophomores are going to solidify us and help us.
“You can just see it out there when they play. They support each other, and they’re positive, and they work hard. ... The group that I have, they show up and work, and they want to get better.”
Most starting positions remained to be determined when the Wildcats opened fall camp, but one position was nailed down.
Sam Schroeder, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior, will be the starting quarterback. Schroeder was the starting QB on the junior varsity, and Mulvey said, “He has a great arm, and he got stronger, got faster, and he’s athletic. He was one of the hardest working players in the offseason.”
Mulvey added Schroeder is mobile, be it a designed running play or scrambling, and he makes good decisions.
In the other offensive skill positions, the Wildcats will have some speed from the likes of Basinger and running back Nick Phillips. Both were sprinters on the track team, and Mulvey said Phillips is the fastest player on the team.
Basinger was second on the team last year in receptions (23) and receiving yards (423), and he made 35 tackles on defense.
Mulvey listed Fruita’s strengths as work ethic, attitude, knowledge of the system and intelligence, and he said, “We have good team speed, good team size, good team strength and good PMA (positive mental attitude).”
Mulvey listed the question marks entering the season as outside linebacker, defensive back and wide receiver.
He hopes when all is said and done he can list depth as a strength, and that will take care of another question: “How are we going to keep our guys fresh?”
Mulvey said too many players were playing both ways last year, and it led to tired players late in games, so he’d like to reduce that number.
“We’re going to try to get a lot more players involved, so we can stay fresh throughout the game,” he said.
To be successful this season, Mulvey said, “We need to play a better, smarter game. We need to play better situational football. We need to be better in our implementation.”
What that will add up to in wins and losses is hard to guess, though, as Fruita is in a new conference after realignment led to the disbanding of the Southwestern Conference.
Fruita’s new home is in the Class 5A Continental North Conference, and it’s a rough neighborhood for football. Regis Jesuit and ThunderRidge are perennial Class 5A powers, and the other teams — Mountain Vista, Rock Canyon and Highlands Ranch — have good numbers and are capable.
“It’s one of the top two, top three conferences in the state, for sure,” Mulvey said.
Mulvey said his team is excited about the challenge.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where we fit in,” he said. “We’re excited about our schedule. To be a good team, you’ve got to play those good teams.”