Las Vegas Sun

January 23, 2018

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High school football:

Durango High hoping extra time before 1st game reaps benefits


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Durango High football players (from left) Levar Colbert and Matthew Gruttadauria before the 2013 football season.

Northwest League — 2013

Palo Verde High football players (from left) Sean Dennis, Josh Hamilton and Parker Rost before the 2013 season. Launch slideshow »

The extra time before their first game means different things to the four Sunset Northwest League teams who kick off tonight. For Durango High it may turn out to be a blessing.

Coach Matt Gerber’s team isn’t so much young as it is inexperienced, he said. It will be juniors and seniors in a lot of key spots but they may be difference faces than last year’s squad that went 5-5 overall and 3-2 in league play. In that way the extra weeks could really pay off.

“It’s allowed us to go a little slower with the kids, go over things in-depth,” Gerber said.

That includes spending more time pouring over the playbook as well as running through things on the field. It’s a challenge to keep the players listening to the same things over and over without the reward of a game, but Gerber said he’s seen some benefits.

“I think we’re improving every day,” he said.

Durango hosts Bonanza High (1-0) tonight at 7. It will be the first game for senior quarterback Ben Haden, who transferred into Durango from out of state at midseason last year.

“He’s more to the mobile side but he throws the ball decent,” Gerber said.

Durango’s offense will also feature new skill players at running back, fullback and wide receiver. On the opposite side the defense will run a 4-3 base set for the second year in a row to rely on its strength along the line. Behind them, Gerber said, the team is working in a new crop of linebackers.

Last year Durango made the playoffs, where Centennial High made sure that was a short trip. This year the goal is the same — get into the playoffs — because once you get there anything can happen.

The first step towards achieving that comes tonight when Gerber said he hopes the extra practice time will translate to fewer first-game mistakes. From there it’s finally back to the regular high school football grind.

“I want to see improvement day in and day out,” Gerber said. “If we play mentally strong we’re going to be in a lot of games.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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