A kick returner clad in Falcon High School’s emerald green bobbled the game’s opening kick before securing the ball and running it back 40 yards. The Falcons scored three plays later.
After a season interrupted by a hazing scandal that suspended play and drove coaching changes, players on Falcon's football team who were cleared in the incident made a dominant return to the gridiron in the opening half of the school’s Friday night homecoming game against Liberty.
“I’ve got a great group of seniors,” said Falcon’s new head coach, Josh Flores. “Our junior class is following a little bit. I’ve got a great group of sophomores that are just stepping up and going, ‘Coach whatever you need I got you.’ The family that’s coming together is really nice.”
Flores was named the team’s interim head coach after the team’s previous coaches were placed on administrative leave. Administrators said they found the old coaches may have known of an alleged hazing incident that caused the school to temporarily suspend its season last week. The team forfeited its Sept. 25 contest to Mesa Ridge.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office launched a probe into the incident to determine if crimes occurred. Department officials declined The Gazette’s request for records on the case, saying their investigation was ongoing.
The District 49 investigation into the incident concluded last week with school Principal Darryl Bonds saying that students involved would be set on a restorative path. Few details of the incident have been released by the school.
Bonds declined comment at Friday night’s game.
Flores and Bonds met with the team Monday to bring “definite closure” to the matter, Bonds said in an email to parents last week. The team went back to practice Monday in preparation for Liberty.
Flores, a physical education teacher at the school, has coached baseball and wrestling according to the school’s website. Football is not listed under his bio but Flores said he has more than 20 years experience over three or four stints as a coach in the sport, including capturing a state championship in 1998.
“I leaned from a lot of great men,” Flores said. “The whole thing is you come back and you give back to the kids simply because somebody made a difference in your life.”
Falcon played to a large crowd Friday night with home team bleachers filled. Ticket officials at game said the turnout was the team's largest this season. One parent described the team’s return as “exciting,” emphasizing the need to move on after a “bump on the road.”
Falcon forced four interceptions and returned two for touchdowns en route to a 34-0 halftime lead in front of the raucous homecoming crowd.
“I’m a guy of humor. I love to have fun with these kids,” Flores said. “They keep me going they keep me young. We feed off of each other.”