New coach aims to reverse team’s trend

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I recall talking with former Douglas County football coach Gene Hill after a couple games and he would always say his team needed to learn how to win.

Well, it’s early, but at least the Huskies were winners in their first game of the 2019 season with a 12-2 win over Mountain Range on Aug. 30, which matched Douglas County’s win total for the 2018 campaign.

Eric Rice, who migrated from Fort Collins High School, collected his first win as Douglas County’s new head football coach but said: “It was kind of a sloppy game for us on offense, specifically, but a win is a win.”

It was a needed win for the victory-starved DC football program, which has gone 4-16 in the past two seasons.

“You always want to start off the year 1-0, it doesn’t matter what program you’re at, it doesn’t matter if you are Valor Christian or you are us,’’ said Rice. “But it was maybe a little bit more important for us because we wanted to avoid that `we lost again, here we go again’ type of mentality that could easily have set in if we had not won that game.”

Rice inherited a strong sophomore class left behind by Hill, who is now an assistant coach at Chaparral, but had to put his stamp on the program.

“This was a similar situation when I took over at Fort Collins,” said Rice. “I got hired in 2003 and Fort Collins was coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons.

“I only know how to do it one way. We started with a summer program. If you are not coming to the summer program, don’t count on playing. You can’t make attendance mandatory but I can sure make playing time what I want it to be based on who shows up to that program and commits themselves on a daily basis and works hard.”

He also got his wife, Laurie, to run a speed and conditioning program, relied on strength and conditioning coach David Goodfellow, and didn’t ignore little things in his detailed approach to the season.

“I brought in my wife to run our speed and conditioning program,” recalled Rice. “My wife ran track at Penn State and she is a two-time 400-meter state champion here in Colorado. She still holds the 100- and 200-meter records at Fort Collins. I said train like a track team this summer so we can get faster and work on fundamentals.

“We have a really great strength coach here at the school and he does a good job with the strength program. We have a detailed approach. All the way down to little things like why we’re all going to dress the same for practice. Everybody is going to wear the same stuff. I was able to hire a couple assistant coaches who were ex-military and they hold people accountable to the details like nobody’s business.”

One game or win doesn’t make a season but it’s a start for Douglas County.

“All these things add up to the potential to put a decent product out on the field,” said Rice. “That doesn’t necessarily mean a win but there’s a good chance you will be able to compete.”

Honor roll

Each week several performances of South Metro athletes and teams will be highlighted. This week’s performances were selected from games, matches and meets between Aug. 30 through Sept. 3.

Regis Jesuit scored 17 fourth-quarter points for a 23-13 win over Pomona on Aug. 30. Raiders’ sophomore quarterback Nicco Marchiol completed 17 of 26 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown.

Highlands Ranch quarterback Jake Rubley passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 30-20 football loss to Eaglecrest on Aug. 30.

Kate Manley had three hits and drove in four runs and Michelle Salazar also had three hits with one RBI in Arapahoe’s 10-2 softball win over Rampart on Aug. 31.

Castle View’s football team rallied for a 28-27 win over Fossil Ridge on Aug. 30 and the Sabercats gambled to get the win. Castle View went for a two-point conversion in the final few minutes and senior Antonio Ursetta was credited with the two-point conversion.

Ponderosa quarterback Jack Hanenburg hit on 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns but the Mustangs dropped a 28-21 decision to Parker rival Legend on Sept 30. Ben Beecher led Ponderosa with 17 tackles.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

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