Last year, after a five-year hiatus, Falcon and Air Academy reprised their nonconference series in a big way.
With just seconds left to play in a one-point game, Air Academy forced a fumble on the 1-yard line as time expired to lock in a 14-13 win for the Kadets.
This time on their home turf, the Falcons hope the outcome is a bit different.
“It was a physical football game and an outstanding defensively played game and it was a fun game to be a part of,” Falcon coach Chris Waca said. “The atmosphere was great, and hopefully we can bring that here to Falcon on Friday night.”
Air Academy and Falcon will look much different this time around, as both graduated a talented group, and return young squads to the field.
Waca and Air Academy coach Scott Grinde talked about their sophomore classes stepping up into starting positions, and will look for improvements from their season openers last week.
Falcon fell to Pueblo Central and Air Academy to Heritage.
“Most coaches will say the biggest improvement is between week 1 and week 2,” Grinde said. “With a game like that (48-6 loss to Heritage) you really find where you’re at. And for some, it’s welcome to high school football. Some guys' eyes were opened. The game is fast and they hit hard. So I think it’s a positive to play someone like that. We can use it as a learning experience.”
For the Falcons, it is back to basics after the 34-7 loss to Central.
“In my history of coaching football for 21 years, when you sit there and work on those fundamentals and technique that’s where you start to see that growth from Week 1 to Week 2,” Waca said.
The Falcons return quarterback Francisco Ponce and top receiver Colton Minnich, but Waca believes Friday’s game will be won "in the trenches" with a youthful offensive line.
Waca said the team lost its entire starting line from a year ago, but believes the "sky’s the limit."
“There’s 11 kids on the field at one given time and we need them all firing as one single unit,” Waca said. “And this week has been a good week of practice so far.”
Air Academy’s youth, however, is found in its skill players. The Kadets lost their starting quarterback, leading rusher and top receiver to graduation — two of whom were among the leading tacklers as well. But Air Academy returns Are'an Burr who led the team with 75 tackles as a sophomore. Burr will transition into a two-way threat as a linebacker/ tight end.
“We are very young. We have a good solid senior group, but we also have a lot of sophomores who have never started or even played at the varsity level,” Grinde said. “Defensively we have to attack more. We saw a lot of guys waiting and trying to react rather than attacking and trying to make plays. I don’t want them to think, I want them to learn and react and do it full speed.”