CORONA – Almost 10 years ago, Corona played for a state championship in six-man football. Ten years before that, they were in the Class 1A state 11-man championship.
Those glory days are well in the past now, but a new crop of Cardinals is hoping to bring glory back to the gridiron.
Corona is fielding its first football team of any kind for its first full season in eight years, and the team – the whole community – is excited.
Their season starts a bit late, not until a game Sept. 4 at home against Vaughn, but with a full schedule of seven games – and maybe more – and a squad of all returning players, coach Matt Lovato is hoping to give the local fans some good football.
“Last year, we had only one home game, and there was quite a turnout,” Lovato said. “This year, everyone’s excited because we’re going to have some Friday night games. The community’s excited because they’ve seen us getting ready.”
Lovato led the team last year in a severely abbreviated provisional season. The Cardinals played only two games, a home-and-away twin bill against Navajo Pine.
Now they’ll have some serious powerhouse teams on the schedule, with Vaughn twice, District 2 opponents Animas and defending state champion Hondo, as well as traditionally strong teams like Lake Arthur and Roy.
“It’s going to be pretty tough, and we have a tough district,” Lovato said. “We’ll prepare our best and expect everyone to play at the top of their game.”
While the Cardinals lost no one to graduation, injuries have taken their toll.
“We have nine kids total, don’t know if we’re going to get any new kids,” Lovato said. “There will be some switching around due to size and maturity. There’s some kids that grew a lot from last year.”
Cooper Autrey has had leg surgery and may not be able to play before the end of the season.
Sam Brown, Dominic and Damien Mulnix are the three seniors on this year’s team, all of whom played on last year’s squad.
“I tried to give them June off to just let them be kids,” Lovato said. “But they started bugging me to open the gym up and start working out again. They’re ready to play.”