Jerimi Calip gazed at the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter of Mitchell High School’s football contest against Class 3A’s No. 3-ranked Durango Oct. 17.
That eventually became 64-0 in the Marauders second defeat of the restructured football season. Calip knew the Marauders lost this contest, but not in the manner the scoreboard indicated.
“It’s not so much about the records; it’s about the effort,” he said. “The effort, at times [against Durango], did not live up to my expectations. We’re trying to break through a wall to get them to do things the right way.”
After five years at Vista Ridge and a year as offensive coordinator with Palmer, Calip inherited the reins of Mitchell’s football program with plans to revitalize it.
But Calip, and the rest of the state, didn’t know if they’d see the gridiron in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic wiped away all sense of normalcy, especially in the sports world.
The back end of the 2020 prep calendar — including boys and girls basketball and all spring activities — was canceled thanks to the virus.
Fall sports appeared to be in danger as well with limited summer practices and, at the time, few details from the Colorado High School Activities Association on the future.
It wasn’t until mid-September that CHSAA decided to have a football season, which now includes fall and spring ball after splitting Friday Night Lights to Season C.
Calip said once he got word football would take place in the fall, he grabbed his metaphorical pail to begin the rebuild of the Marauders.
“I was excited for the kids to have an opportunity to play,” he said. “Being new to this job, it was important to get out there to have the opportunity to see what I was working with. We as a coaching staff have to be patient. We’re trying to change their mindset.”
The Marauders got a glimpse of their transformation in the opener against Discovery Canyon on Oct. 8.
Though the final score, 48-14, indicates a blowout, it doesn’t tell the entire story nor show the tenacity exhibited by Mitchell.
The Marauders forced a pair of fumbles, gained an early 6-0 lead over the then-ranked No. 4 Thunder, and converted a 37-yard pass on 4th and 27 from Discovery Canyon’s 37, which gave Mitchell the aforementioned lead.
“[The game against Discovery Canyon] shows that we have real talent,” said Demetrius Biglow, Marauders wide receiver and cornerback. “If we can keep doing this over and over, we’ll come up over some teams and get some wins.”
Mitchell last had a winning record in 2004 when the Marauders finished 6-4. Shortened schedule aside, it’ll be challenging for the Marauders to duplicate that success this season.
More than half their team didn’t suit up for varsity in 2019 and three of their opponents rank in Class 3A’s top 10. But Calip wants these kids to embrace the struggle and evolve. So much so, the staff developed the mantra, “F.E.A.R.” — Face Everything and Rise.
Players, coaches and Mitchell fans at Garry Berry Stadium wore the shirts, supporting their team and the change in mindset they hope Calip and Co. inspire within the athletes.
Calip believes football is perfect to not only unite the team on the gridiron and mold their mindset, but to tackle problems off the field as well.
“What’s going on in 2020 from a political standpoint, from racial tension, I need them to understand there will be things that aren’t going to go your way,” Calip said. “Football is just a small part of [life]. Once they understand that, guys will band together.”