ST. GEORGE — Dixie State’s football season will start on Saturday, as the Trailblazers take on the ninth-ranked team in Division II, the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves.
First-year head coach Paul Peterson says the team is ready to get the season underway. Wrapping up their full pads practice Wednesday morning, the excitement was palpable as players huddled together in anticipation of Saturday’s game.
“We had an extra day of practice this week,” Peterson said. “As far as padded practice, tomorrow will be just helmets and get their legs back a little bit more fresh.”
Coming out of fall camp, some players stood out, and Peterson awarded scholarships.
“We had some guys really step up, and we awarded scholarships to some guys,” he said. “Our starting QB, Kody Wilstead, is a good story. We didn’t have any scholarships at the time in the spring, and he came and walked on. I said, ‘You gotta earn it,’ and he has. We awarded him a scholarship a week ago or so.”
As for Wilstead, he has been given the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, but the Trailblazers will be playing two quarterbacks on Saturday.
“He (Wilstead) and Keaton Mott have a really good battle going, so we’ll see both of them on Saturday, and see who moves the offense the best.”
Peterson also talked about the team voting for their captains. Defensive lineman Anthony Yarbrough and defensive back Alex Lillard were named captains. On offense side of the ball, running back Sei-J Lauago, wide receiver Dejuan Dantzler and offensive lineman Nathen Aceves were all named captains.
One name that stood out on the list of captains was Abraham Reinhardt, who passed away suddenly in March, but his teammates still stand behind him.
“We just voted for captains, and it was great,” Peterson said. “The guys voted for Abe (Reinhardt), which wasn’t a surprise really. He’s awesome, and he’s a good reminder for us about being lucky to play ball.”
Reinhardt was the first person that came to mind for Captain Sei-J Lauago.
“I think the only person I was thinking about was my boy Abraham. Wishing he was here physically.”
Peterson said the fact that the players voted for Reinhardt showed what kind of person he was and how much he meant to the team.
“This will be a cool game because we’re going to honor him,” Peterson said. “Each time we’ll go out with the captains we’ll have his No. 3 jersey; one of our captains will take it out there. We’re doing stuff to honor him.”
The Trailblazers will be matching up against a great defense in CSU-Pueblo.
“Pueblo is awesome,” Peterson said. “They’re tough, they’re stout, and they’ve got great defense. That’s what they hang their hat on. Their offense is based on their defense. They want to control the ball and keep it away from opposing offenses. They’re the perennial powerhouse, so it should be a good matchup for us.”
Lauago said he thinks it will be important to set the tone for the team’s last season in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
“Being a senior (and) having it be our last year in the RMAC, I think we have to set the tone from the first game. It’s football, and anything can happen. We just have to go out there, grind every play and execute our assignments.”
With Lauago as a running threat, the Trailblazers will be looking to the senior for production.
“He adds value. He’ll get touches, whether that be in the pass game or run game,” said Peterson. “He’s tough man, you know he’s a little fart. He can sneak in those gaps. He’s a good runner, and he gets downhill. It’ll be exciting to see him and keep him healthy so he can give us production all season long.”
With a no huddle, fast-paced offense, Lauago said he likes the changes that Peterson has made during his first year as head coach.
“It’s very different, but at the same time I think it’s good for our offense. With the skills that we have, not just at running back but wide receiver and quarterback, I think him (Peterson) bringing this type of offense to our skilled atmosphere is great.”
Peterson spoke to the impact his offensive line will have on the game, with such a high octane offense.
“With the no huddle, you expect to get a lot of plays, so those guys have to maintain that, opening up holes for our guys all game long.”
Looking ahead at the season, the product on the field is important, but the Trailblazers also value academics.
“I think we’ve all come together, and Coach P has really emphasized school first,” Lauago said. “There’s a lot of aspects too – it’s not just going to school and coming home. The coaches make sure that we’re also doing our assignments, making sure that we exceed our assignments and making sure that we stay on top of it.”
As a senior, Lauago is trying to take everything in during his last season.
“For me this year, it’s more nostalgic. The memories, the process, just going through it each day. Now I’m a senior, I’m trying to take everything in, trying to take the process in, and the grind, making sure these young student athletes know that school is important.”
Dixie State will play No. 9 ranked CSU-Pueblo on Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. at Trailblazer Stadium.
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