Gridiron Warriors kick off practice for 2012

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Any child who dreams of playing high school football on Friday nights frequently hears the expression “Playing under the lights,” and on Sunday the Socorro Warriors got to do just that for the first time in 2012.

Carrying on a tradition that the program started about three or four years ago, the Warriors take the field at midnight on the first day the New Mexico Activities Association allows teams to hold formal practices with helmets.

“The kids all get so excited to come out and be under the lights for the first time,” head coach Damien Ocampo said.

“They kind of chomp at the bit.”

During any team’s first official practice of the season, “X”s and “O”s are undoubtedly going to be on the agenda. But amid all of the excitement and energy surrounding the initial midnight practice, Ocampo and his staff also wanted to stress to their players just what type of situation they’re all in.

“I think we spend a little bit of time talking to them about the most important things, and I think that’s what gets them excited about coming out,” Ocampo said. “Really what we talk to them about is the relationships that they’re making right now, the building of family and all of the intangibles it takes to be a good ball club.”

The Warriors spent about six hours together as a team on Sunday, including a run from Escondida and a pre-practice dinner to stress the value of the team dynamic.

“They’re part of something bigger than themselves,” Ocampo added.

And teamwork will indeed need to be a strong concept in the early stages of the 2012 season, as Socorro lost a bevy of talent to graduation. Four of those graduated players played in the 2012 football All-Star game, but Ocampo says the guys they have in place now understand their roles, and they’re good, tough football players.

And they’re apparently already off to a good start.

“The thing that stood out to me, more than any other year is that tonight, I felt like this was the best first practice we’ve ever had,” Ocampo said.

That’s no small compliment from a coach that has been involved with the program for eight years now, and it’s a program that’s seen a great deal of recent success.

“We’ve had some great teams,” Ocampo said.

Socorroans will have to wait and see if this year’s team will be able to fill the big shoes of it’s predecessors.

For a full preview of this year’s Warriors football team, see the upcoming Aug. 25 edition of El Defensor Chieftain.