Trent Jones’ fuse was much shorter than usual during football practice.
It’s what happens when it’s the final first day of your prep football career.
The senior tight end/defensive lineman at Santa Fe High understood this was no normal opening day of practice Monday at Ivan Head Stadium — it was his last one.
Having spent most of his career trying to be a part of the turnaround of the Santa Fe High program, he has a sense that this year might be different.
And it’s why he’s a tad crankier than normal.
“I was a lot harder and short-tempered than I have been in the past,” Jones said. “This is for real. This is the last time to go get it, so let’s go get it now.”
Jones’ attitude reflects a changing culture for the Demons, who went almost four years without a win before beating Española Valley in dramatic fashion to halt a 35-game losing streak last September. While Santa Fe High finished the 2018 season with a 2-8 record, the dark clouds that hung over the program lightened, and there were rays of hope over the summer.
Andrew Martinez, the third-year Santa Fe High head coach, said the team made significant gains in terms of strength and speed, and he feels the team has better depth across the board than in past years. It could lead to as few a three players starting on both sides of the ball, although he said it was too early to make that determination.
He added that the Demons competed well in several 7-on-7 passing camps, even against teams that they have struggled with in the past.
“That confidence is growing,” Martinez said. “It’s growing not just with the older guys, but the freshmen and sophomores who went through those trials last year, they’re competitive and they want to push everybody. It is nice to see that from the sophomore, junior and senior classes. They don’t want to lose those tough games. They want to win every game.”
For all the progress Santa Fe High has made in changing its mindset, the next step is more complicated.
Monday’s first practice was a little slow at times, as the team alternated from performing well to missing assignments and being sluggish in terms of the pace of practice. It underscored a lack of consistency the Demons are struggling with, but senior Andres Rodriguez felt the team set a good tone that can carry into the next 21/2 weeks of practice and into the season opener Aug. 23 at home against Las Vegas Robertson.
“This first day sets the tone for the season,” Rodriguez said. “This shows the younger guys that football’s football. It gets them tougher and lays the first brick in the foundation.”
Martinez said that the senior group of about a dozen players might be perfect to lead the way. They have been in Martinez’s program for the past three years, and understand the expectations he placed from Day One.
If anything, Martinez called the seniors an extension of the coaching staff.
“They understand their role, and I don’t even have to tell those guys what to do,” Martinez said. “They’re proactive, they take care of stuff on and off the field. And they are really good at helping out the freshmen and sophomores and the first-year guys [who haven’t been in the program until now].”
Still, there is a sense of urgency from that group to complete the turnaround — perhaps as soon as this fall.