Practice is literally gearing up as the Socorro Warriors hosted its first week of padded drills. Beginning on August 5, the team went with straight helmets the first two days before finishing the week off in shells and the final day being full contact.
Head Coach Damien Ocampo was away on business so Assistant Coach Luis Calzada filled in as lead dog. After hitting the weight room, the Warriors players took to the field for non-tackle contact drills and scrimmages. Calzada pumped up the team during a midfield huddle.
“You give your best effort. You give your best effort! Is that understood? The best you can do is good enough, I promise you that. If you can go home and look yourself in the mirror then that is all we can ask for. Now I can’t say that anyone here today has been perfect so far. The goal is to be a perfect team. Go for 1-0 then 2-0. If we stumble and make a mistake then we get right back up and do better the next time.”
Players were broken up into three different groups doing rotating drills. Calzada was focused on offense and working with senior quarterback Payson Hicks. Alex Johnson ran catching drills with the skill players, many of which doing their best Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch impressions. Former head coach and returning staff member Al Ocampo was working with the linemen to perfect footwork, blocking schemes and timing off the snap.
Coach Al was the head football coach in Socorro more than 20 years ago and returned after retiring from 44 years of teaching and coaching around the Southwest. Some of the current coaching staff played underneath him during his four year run leading Warriors football.
“I’m here to help coach, wherever they need me,” he said. “I’ll be focusing more on the defensive side but I’m here to help however I can. The kids have done a really great job this summer. We’ve got a talented bunch of guys but we have to continue to work and stress the fundamentals. You can have all the skill in the world but in the long run it comes down to execution and making the smart play.”
The weather came in during the Thursday night practice which brought some light rain. Coach Johnson was monitoring lightning strikes to make sure they were not within seven miles according to NMAA regulations. When a strike happened less than two miles away the players were taken off the field and returned to the locker room. Despite the abbreviated practice, Johnson was optimistic in the progress so far.
“One thing we talked about was the difference we’re at now compared to last year,” he said. “Having a full offseason with the same coaching staff intact makes all the difference in the world. The Los Lunas (fighting) incident was a good spark because it showed that football could be taken away like that. The player involved addressed the team immediately and we’ve moved on together as a group. Our guys are great at turning a positive into a negative.”
The team did not waste time having to hit the locker room as Calzada put in extra work on the white board with the more than 30 players on hand to go over X’s and O’s as well as helping them to memorize signals they will see from coaches on the sidelines in games.
As of press time, the Warriors are currently projected as 3rd in the state class 3A rankings and 28th overall in all classes in New Mexico according to MaxPreps rankings.
After its two game road trip beginning August 23 at Thoreau and at Tularosa they will host its first home game on September 6 against Raton before having an early season bye the following week.