WILL DOWN MEAN UP?
Central Warriors look to restore tradition by moving to Class 3A
It’s a new era for Central High School football, and there’s only one goal.
“We just want to improve,” second-year head coach Shawn Marsh said.
After winning only five games in the previous four years and going winless the past two seasons, Central is looking to rebuild its football foundation.
After last season, the Colorado High School Activities Association approved Central’s “play-down” petition, allowing the Warriors to move into the Class 3A classification for football. Central will also move into the 3A Western Slope Conference.
CHSAA’s play-down policy allows struggling teams the opportunity to play in a smaller enrollment classification for two years.
Marsh, a veteran Mesa County coach, said he’s not worried about wins, he just wants the team to continue putting in the work and getting better.
“We’re just focused on working hard and making sure that we can put a team on the field that’s going to compete,” he said.
With more than 70 players this year, Marsh said there’s a renewed excitement about the squad.
One factor that excites Marsh is he and his veteran staff will be with the team for a second season.
“Being with the kids for a year, we’re going to get the kids in the right spots and that really helps,” he said. “We can now get them in better situations for them to be more successful.”
Marsh said the Warriors will be one of the bigger teams size-wise in the Class 3A Western Slope Conference, but team leadership will be the strength of the team.
“We’ve really worked on developing leaders, and right now we’ve got some kids that have grown up and are leaders on our team,” he said.
The coach also said Central has a group of newcomers who will make a difference.
One he mentioned was tailback Justin Eller, a senior who hasn’t played since he was a freshman because of knee injuries.
Marsh said quarterback Wyatt McElwain and receiver/defensive back Dominic Haut-Quintana will be the leaders on the team and will be keys to the team’s offense. Tonka Little-Fawn was an effective runner last year, and Mike Estep played well at linebacker. Both were sophomores.
Marsh is an offensive-minded coach who runs a shotgun-style formation 95 percent of the time.
“I love throwing the football, but we’re going to focus on running the football this year,” he said. “We’ll still do that from the shotgun formation, and we’ll run out of passing looks.”
Moving down to 3A and out of the now-disbanded Southwestern Conference will allow the Warriors to be more competitive, but Marsh said the upper echelon of the WSC will still be a brutal test for his team.
“We want to compete, but that Western Slope League has proven itself for I don’t know how many years,” he said. “That league is the toughest league in the state in 3A football.”
Marsh and his coaching staff are preaching the basics with the team.
“We’ve been stressing that we’ve got to be ready to be physically and mentally ready to go if we want to compete,” he said.
The Warriors start the season with three nonconference games, including the opener against Air Academy, another winless team from 2013.
Central is one of three Class 4A teams playing down this season. Niwot and Mitchell also will be in Class 3A this season.
Marsh said the team has made some major strides and has gone through “a complete transformation” since the end of the last season.
“We’re trying to teach them to work hard and succeed in football. We’re trying to teach them that, so they can succeed after high school,” he said.