It is finally time for the Yuma High School football team to kickoff the 2019 season.

“It’s been a month of practice, now we have to find a way to win this game and build some momentum,” head coach Kelly Seward said. “We’re a little more focused this week now that we have a game.”

The Indians begin their nine-week regular season Friday when they host the Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, Hornets at 7 p.m.

They opened their season last year at Pine Bluffs, losing to the Hornets 27-0. The Hornets had won two straight Wyoming state titles leading into last year’s game. They won their first four games last season, but then lost three straight, and eventually lost early in the Wyoming playoffs.

However, the Hornets no doubt will provide a stiff challenge in the season opener for a Yuma squad coming off a 3-6 campaign in 2018. The program has only one playoff appearance, 2013, since winning the Class 1A championship 10 years ago.

“They still have the same quarterback, and a lot of talent on the edge. They’ve lost some size on the line, but for a team that likes to spread you out, they have plenty of talent on the edge,” Seward said.

He noted that it has been a long time since the Indians won a season opener, which would be a great way to build some momentum. The coach reported the JV team won 16-0 on Tuesday against Highland, and the junior high A team won big at Sterling, “so it’s a good time to be an Indian.”

The 2019 season is the second for Seward, a lifelong Yuma resident (except for his college years), and most of his coaching staff in heading up the YHS football program.

Pictured above is the 2019 Yuma High School football team: Front row (l-r) — Aiden Blanco, John Smith, Nathan Etl, Alec Holtorf, Yahir Trejo, Caleb Long, Gabe Schulte, Ethan Goeglein, Rolando Caraveo, Gustavo Mosqueda, Zeke Martinez, Conner Lynch, Tyler Allen and Jake Hagemeier; second row (l-r) — J Gordo, Jesus Ross, Blaze Brophy, Manny Tena, Jake Haruf, Joey Ross, Kallen Blach, Eddie Corral, Jose Ruiz, Kail Cooper, Joan Yanez, Hector Caraveo, and Ethan Gonzalez; third row (l-r) — Louden Blach, Cayden Lynch, Juan Cortes, coaches Rory Lynch, Caleb Metzler, Kelly Seward, Michael Baucke and Jonathan Ferrari, manager Breann Witte, Victor Perez, Will Marshall, and Logan Schulte; back row (l-r) — Christian Quezada, Creighton Eyring, Lars Sims, Lane Remmich, Clay Robinson, Chase McCreath, Dylan Dreiling, Preston Blach, Andre Baucke, Brandon Mendoza, and Jonathan Rascon. (Photo courtesy of Jim Powell Photography)

The hope is the continuity and consistently-strong coaching eventually will lead YHS football back to the top. However, it is a tough hill to climb.

“I think it takes coaches with leadership, willing to show they believe in the kids,” Seward said. “Football just wasn’t important in Yuma anymore.”

He said it starts with the lower levels — everyone from fourth grade on up is running the high school’s doublewing shotgun offense. That continuity is going to result in better-prepared players when they reach the high school level.

However, the time is now for the 2019 varsity.

Yuma does have nearly all of its skill position players back from last season.

Senior Chase McCreath will direct the offense in his third year as the starting quarterback, with junior Joey Ross second on the depth chart. Competing for playing time at the wing and featured back positions are seniors Cayden Lynch and Alec Holtorf, junior Rolando Caraveo, and sophomores Clay Robinson and Yahir Trejo. Competing at fullback are juniors Kail Cooper and Blaze Brophy. The X and Y (tight end spots) positions are being manned by seniors Manny Tena, Creighton Eyring, Jonathan Rascon and junior Lane Remmich.

“We’ve finally have some depth built up,” Seward said.

Yuma started last season with all seniors along the offensive line, and while some youngsters worked their way into the rotation, the Indians return very little experience in the trenches.

Preston Blach is the only senior lineman, and he is currently sidelined by an injury. Junior Joan Yanez is the starter at center, junior J Gordo and sophomore Jose Ruiz at the guards, and in the running playing at the tackle spots are junior Dylan Dreiling, and sophomores Lars Sims and Christian Quezada, with Blach also in the mix when he returns.

“We’re not as big but we’re definitely more athletic up front this year,” Seward said.

The Indians might be in just the second year of running the double-wing shotgun offense, but have been working out of Seward’s defensive schemes for several years. (Seward was defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach.)

The front line of defense includes Sims, Quezada, Dreiling, Ruiz and junior Juan Cortes.

The inside linebacker spot are manned by junors Gage Schulte and Logan Schulte, and seeing time at the outside spots are Lynch, Trejo, Cooper and Brophy.

The cornerbacks are Holtorf and senior Gustavo Mosqueda, along with junior Eddie Corral and Caraveo. In the running for playing time at safety are Tena, Ross, Eyring and Robinson.

Yuma football is seemingly settled in at 43 players this season, which in today’s day and age, is a fairly solid number for Class 1A football. Seward said the numbers also are strong for the junior high program, as well as the grades 4-6 tackle football, and even flag football for grades K-3.

“We have about 160 kids playing football in kindergarten through 12th grade,” Seward said. “You get the numbers and then you find ways to win. Kids want to be part of winning.”

Hopefully, that will begin Friday night.

First week

Three of the North Central Conference team’s opened their season’s last Friday.

Wray began the season ranked No. 10 in 1A, but lost in Ault to the Highland Huskies, 14-6, and dropped out of the Top 10. The Eagles are at Sheridan this week.

Holyoke, ranked No. 5, ran roughshod over Phillips County-rival, and 8-man team, Haxtun, 34-0. The Dragons host second-ranked Colorado Springs Christian on Friday in a marquee 1A matchup.

Wiggins opened the season last Friday with a 14-6 loss to Brush in a Morgan County battle. The Tigers have this week off before hosting Platte Canyon on September 14.

Joining Yuma in playing their season openers are defending state champion, and No. 1 ranked, Limon at Class 2A Lamar, and eighth-ranked Burlington hosting third-ranked Strasburg in another marquee early-season 1A matchup.