COOLIDGE — Imagine Prep is entering a new era of football with a new coach and a new attitude.
Eagles players, as a unit, put in weight room time over the summer for the first time, first-year coach DuShawn Austin said, and are eager to play football.
“We’ve been going with conditioning since July 20,” said Austin, who served as an assistant coach last season. “We’re just trying to put in an offense and a defense and a special team. They conditioned a lot this past summer. I believe this is the first time, ever, of really having a summer program. It shows a little bit more dedication.”
Transitioning from the offseason to actual competition, Austin looks to have a physical team and deeper roster with size but also with some inexperience, particularly at quarterback.
“We rely on a lot of young kids, freshmen and sophomores. And the experience that’s coming back, it’s tremendous. They’re all up front, linemen-wise. Those guys are really focused. That’s our bread and butter, our O-line and D-line. Those mostly are our returners,” Austin said.
Jacob Lopez, an all-conference defensive end last season, is shifting to linebacker, and Izaiah Martinez, Josue Ayala and Nicholas Valencia will man the line of scrimmage, Austin said.
“You got to realize last year those kids went both ways the whole game and we suited up maybe 14 guys,” he said. Izaiah got his weight down and now he can move a lot quicker, vertically and horizontally. He can go quick up front. Josue Ayala, he’s probably 6-4, 245 pounds. He’s a returner up front. There’s probably four or five other guys that should be returning but decided to go other places.”
The quarterback position has been somewhat of a conundrum for the Eagles this preseason, with Austin deciding between a freshman and a senior, both lacking experience.
“We’re very [uncertain] with new quarterbacks fighting for positions. The senior (Diego Saveedra) didn’t play last year, and we didn’t have any middle school (for Evan Namingha), so we’re new there at the trigger position,” Austin said.
The Eagles will play six games — three at home, three away — this season in the 8-man football Canyon Athletic Association. The first game is scheduled to take place in Coolidge on Oct. 16 against a brand new program in Heritage Academy-Maricopa.
Much of the schedule-making process has been up in the air as some schools have decided they aren’t going to play football this year due to COVID-19.
“We deal with whatever. We just want to play. Whoever they put on the schedule, we’re going to play,” Austin said. “The 10 teams that are in right now are ready. They’re excited. I’m excited taking on a program like this.”