THATCHER — The Eagles know what everyone is wondering; but they also know what they’re focusing on, and that’s their most immediate obstacle.
Four titles in a row . . . can they do it? That’s a nice goal, but Thatcher head coach Ramon Morales said, “Someone asked us what game are we looking forward to. For us, our philosophy that we’re trying to establish that we had last year is we take it one week, one game at a time. We know people are going to come after us. We have to be prepared for the challenge. The boys have been working hard since January.”
Thatcher has been to a few camps, including Round Valley, and scrimmaged a few seven-on-sevens over the summer against Morenci, Willcox and Pima. That time added up to hundreds of hours of work before school started.
“I think they’ve embraced the challenge,” Morales said. “Now it’s just a matter of keeping our focus and not get ahead of ourselves. Friday starts on Monday; and whoever we have on Friday, that’s who we have to prepare for. We can’t be looking down the road.”
Thatcher graduated a number of seniors this past May, but there are 18 new seniors this year to lead the way and keep each other focused.
“They have embraced the leadership position. They were making sure people got to the weight room. We had really good numbers throughout the spring and summer. We had really good numbers for seven-on-seven,” Morales said. “They were always at the forefront. We have to be ready to be the frontline players. We have to be the dude, so to speak. It’s a process. It’s a program that’s bigger than anybody here. We’re real proud of what we’ve accomplished, but that’s in the rearview mirror. The boys understand that. It’s a big, big challenge we have in front of us, something that hasn’t been done. We have to bring our ‘A’ game every single week.”
Senior running back Gavin Bryce has been on varsity for the last three years.
“Every year, we’ve been kind of overlooked, until last year; but I had the pleasure of learning from those guys ahead of me. It was super. I got to be a part of those teams and learn what it takes to be a winner — the hard work, the mindset and everything. That was good for me as a player and person. With coach Hinton and coach Morales, those guys helped us in every way they could,” Bryce said.
Bryce understands the need to take things week by week, game by game.
“That’s something that we’ve learned through our years of playing. We’ve got to treat every week like it’s a state championship. It’s not a one-time thing. You have to be very nearsighted,” he said.
Now that he’s a senior, Bryce is stepping up to help lead the way.
“I know seniors in the past have been leading by example, and that’s what meant the most to me, so that’s why I’m trying to do for my team — not so much talking, but by being the hardest worker on the field and always doing your best,” he said.
Fellow senior and running back Bretton Dodge was asked what’s made these last three years memorable (besides winning). He said, “Having a strong group of upperclassmen, like me being able to play varsity. They helped me and taught me how to play. It’s really fast compared to freshman and JV. I want to do the same thing, helping the younger men and pulling them up and showing them how to play. Just push through the pain and keep going, no matter what.
“We’ve been putting in effort since January, since track season. We hit the weight room and practiced so we can be stronger. We started really early to get that bond, so during the season, we have a super strong bond. I feel that helps a lot. Camp was very effective, showing the younger men and refresh the older and sharpen plays.”
As far as contribution, Dodge said he wants to give it his all.
“I feel it’s going to be a challenge. I want to make every play count.”