Pueblo East holds the longest active state football championship streak. The Eagles topped Discovery Canyon last December to claim their third-straight Class 3A title.
They also accomplished that feat with three different head coaches.
So this year, Pueblo East faces a a situation that they’re unfamiliar with: coaching consistency.
Andy Watts is looking to keep the championship streak alive and claim his second title.
But he knows it’s going to be anything but a walk through the park.
Question: This team is going into a year where it’s coming off three state titles with three different coaches, what’s the challenge now in actually having some consistency at the position this year?
Watts: You know, we just can’t let the past get to our heads and we just have to stay focused on what our ultimate goal is and that’s the same as it was my first year coaching. It’s to win our last game.
Just go in and compete one game at a time and treat every game like a playoff game and just take care of business.
Q: You’ve been around this team during these years and transitioned from head coach to head coach. What was the first thing you learned when you took the job over?
Watts: The first thing that I learned? All the non-football stuff is the biggest pain.
But the first thing I learned was teaching the kids to be humble and stay committed to our ultimate goal and that’s putting the team over yourself and staying dedicated to one another.
I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned is to keep the kids bought in.
Q: What’s your mindset going into this year with a year of coaching now under your belt and knowing the feeling of winning a state title?
Watts: It’s very similar to last year. I know that we have a solid group of young men that have been putting in the work and I know that if we go into each week with the right attitude and the right effort that we have a chance to do what we’ve done in the past and defend our title.
Q: Luc Andrada, your sophomore quarterback, didn’t disappoint last year. What can we expected from him in his junior year?
Watts: More growth. I expect nothing but more growth from him.
He’s a great leader on and off the field. He obviously did not disappoint in his debut season, and I expect good things from him again.
Q: What do you have to overcome with the loss of guys like Bryson Torres and Luke Padula?
Watts: Those young men that we lost were obviously a tremendous asset to all three state titles and they’ll be sadly missed.
We just need guys to step up. We need guys filling that void and guys that hadn’t had to lead in the past accepting leadership positions.
From what I’ve seen through the summer and through camp, I’m very excited and anxious to see what this year holds.
Q: How big of a target is on your back?
Watts: If there wasn’t a target on our back last year, there’s obviously a big one on our back this year.
With winning it three times, obviously we’re going to get everybody’s best. We have an extremely tough schedule, so we know that not only are we going to get everybody’s best, but we’re playing some of the teams in the state right out of the gate.
We have a tough league. I feel like there’s a big target on our back and that’s something these guys are used to. These guys coming into their senior year, they have a chance to win four state titles so I think all we can do is embrace it and run with it.
Q: Do you feel like there’s a little bit more competitiveness and a little bit more of a rivalry feeling in Pueblo than what you see in a lot of the state?
Watts: To be totally honest with you, I can’t speak for other spots in the state. I know that there are some leagues up north that are ultra-competitive.
As far as league goes, obviously we’re a football and wrestling town. There’s great tradition here football-wise.
I can’t say that we have better rivalries down here and more intense competition because I can’t speak for those teams in the surrounding areas.
I do know that what we have here is something special and our league this year is going to be extremely competitive especially with Durango and Harrison. They were both pretty young teams last year and returned a lot of guys and they played us pretty tough.
I expect a battle as far as league play goes.
Q: What do you talk to your kids in terms of expectations when you’re coming off three state championships. Is that the expectation or just one of several goals?
Watts: Like I said before, our goal is to win our last game.
I told the boys that last year coming in as a rookie head coach that we treat every game like a playoff game. I don’t care if we’re playing a team that’s 0-5 or 5-0, we’re going to treat everybody the same and play four quarters of relentless football.
Our goal is to go in and win every football game.
Q: In the state title game, was there any panic in you last year when Discovery Canyon took the lead?
Watts: You know what, I wouldn’t say there was a sense of panic. We knew going into the game that Discovery Canyon was an extremely tough opponent. They had put it on us pretty good earlier in the year.
When they scored that first touchdown, we knew they were going to get yards and score some points. That’s just the ebbs and flows of football.
You’re going to give up a touchdown here or there.
I don’t think there was a sense of panic. We expected them to come out strong, but fortunately we were able to come out and execute and hold them to that touchdown.
Q: As you head into camp, how do you make sure that the kids are still having fun and that your message isn’t stale considering what’s been done the last three years?
Watts: I think that we just continue to keep a positive environment for the kids. Keep it fun.
We don’t try and put any pressure on the kids in terms of expectations. They’re used to winning. We’re used to winning. Which is a good thing, we’re ultra-competitive.
But at the same time, we’re used to having fun.
We tell them as coaches, our job is to love them up and their job as players is to love each other.
As long as we can do that, we’re going to be alright.