Dolores Huerta football team falls to Vail Christian in season opener

Going up against a top ten team is no easy task no matter what week it is.

But to have a top ten foe in game one? That can be a bit daunting.

The Dolores Huerta Prep 8-man football team hosted last year's ninth-ranked team in Vail Christian to open the season on Saturday. On a hot and dry day in Pueblo, the Scorpions fell to the Saints 48-20.

The Scorpions are a very young team this season, with almost a quarter of their roster true freshmen. The Saints came in with plenty of senior leadership, specifically at the quarterback position in senior Taylor Shull.

“We took this game knowing it was going be tough,” Dolores Huerta coach James Casias said. “These guys were 10-1 last year and a playoff team, so we knew these guys were coming here was going to expose everything about what we need to work on to before we get to our league games.”

The Scorpions have their own special talent at quarterback in Bryan Mendoza. The junior quarterback did all he could today to try and keep the Scorpions in the game. However, there was a mountain of miscues in the first half that caused the home team to fall behind early.

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First half heat wave

The weather played a major factor in this game. It was north of 90 degrees on the field at kickoff.

And with no winds and no shade, players, refs, and coaches all felt the heat. Several players on the Scorpion sidelines were consistently hunched over.

Players who normally start or are on the field all the time were rotated out due to the heat.

“We're going to have to condition a little bit better,” Casias said. “That's what played the biggest factor is having too many kids come off the field from cramping. We got to clean that up for sure."

“We got to make sure we stay healthy and hydrated,” Marcos Lerma said. “We just got to stay conditioned.”

Couple all that with the mental fatigue of your first game of the season against a playoff team, you now have a recipe for miscues. Three different Scorpion touchdowns were called back due to mental penalties.

It's something you may expect in the first game, though certainly leaves room for improvement.

“I think we did well,” Mendoza said. “We can work on remembering our formations a little bit better but we got a young team, but our defense kept us in it.”

“The run inside was working really well for us today,” Casias said. “That's how we were scoring our points off. We had a couple of good passes come out of the back but we weren't getting protection on our front for passing for some reason, we could run the ball though.”

Second half, still hot

The Scorpions didn’t shy from the challenge in the second half.

Barry Fox took a carry up the middle for over 50 yards and a score. The game was not completely out of reach at that point with a score of 36-14, but the Saints quickly answered back and scored again before the end of the third quarter.

The Scorpions would eventually score once more, but so would the Saints.

Despite the lopsided loss, the Scorpions felt like it could be a great learning experience for a very young team.

“We need to make sure everyone knows the plays and formations,” Mendoza said. “As the quarterback, I need to help them study more and make sure they know what they're doing.”

“Defensively I think we did well but offensively we couldn't get our plays or formations down,” Lerma said. “We will work on that more in practice. It takes a lot of effort to do that and as a team, we all got to come together and just do the work.”

Another thing to work on? Opening up the passing game.

“We got to fix that,” Casias said. “Usually, I throw the ball at least 40% of the time, today we had about 20% which is kind of rough. Having to run the ball like that the whole time when we have a huge route tree. We got to be able to get our passing game going to get our whole offense really running.”

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Junior QB gets his chance

Mendoza started his high school career at tight end for the Scorpions. After last year's quarterback (Mateo Mata) graduated, Mendoza was given an opportunity to play the position he took reps in back in elementary and middle school.

“When I was younger, I played flag football and I play quarterback,” Mendoza said. “I played throughout, then got to pads and then in 8th-grade year, I switched to tight end. I played tight end through my sophomore year. My quarterback back last year was a senior, so the coach asked us who wanted to step up.”

And step up he did. Mendoza won the starting quarterback position in his junior season and is excited to experience the position at the high school level.

“It's different, it's a lot different,” Mendoza said. “You need to know a lot more, it's not like in little league where you get told what to do and get this or that handed to you, got to kind of work for it more.”

For now, Mendoza is working on trying to be a better leader as a quarterback, and it starts with getting his team back on track and focused after this week 1 loss.

Christopher Abdelmalek is a sports reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain and can be reached at or on Twitter: @chowebacca

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Dolores Huerta football takes on Vail Christian to open 2022 season