The Douglas Bulldog football team held its post season awards banquet on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the Douglas Country Club.
It was at the event Bulldog football coach James Fitzgerald announced several of his players had landed first, second and honorable mention All Gila Region honors.
Making the first team squad was Alex Molina, defensive back; Kevin Chavez, linebacker, Andres Moreno, offensive lineman; Joaquin Escalante, placekicker; Ernie Bernal, receiver/tight end and Christian Estrella, running back.
Second team honors went to: David Grajeda, defensive lineman; Elian Villasenor, kickoff returner; Mario Estrada, offensive lineman; John Ballesteros, receiver/tight end and Manny Mejia, running back.
Honorable mention honors went to: Ben Huish, offensive line; Christian Karlinsey, offensive line; Norberto Pacheco, defensive line; Trey Rose, quarterback, Jacob Del Rio, defensive back and Guibran Berthley, defensive flex.
The coach stated All-State honors would be handed down in the coming week and all the first team honorees were candidates for All-State recognition.
At the banquet Coach Fitz said he has been asked on more than one occasion how a team that was 0-10 one year turn it around and go 8-2 the next?
He said it was due to all the hard work the players put in during the offseason not only on the field but also in the weight room.
The coach then shared some startling records that were broken by this team adding they broke so many records a new weight room record board has had to be ordered.
In 2017 there were three players who benched over 225-pounds. This year that number jumped to 16.
In 2017 there was one player who benched over 300-pounds. This year there were eight.
In 2017 six players squatted 315-pounds or more. This year there were 20.
In 2017 three players squatted over 400-pounds. This year that number jumped to 11.
In 2017 no player squatted over 450-pounds. This year there were seven.
In 2017 three players power cleaned 225-pounds. This year there were 15 players who did that.
In 2017 two players ran under a 4.8 second 40. This year there were seven, three of which ran under 4.65 compared to zero last year.
“This is why we got a lot better this past year,” the coach said.
In 2016, before Coach Fitz was hired the teams Grade Point Average was 2.2. You need a 2.4 to play college football. In 2017 the GPA jumped to 2.4 and this year it increased to 2.7.
During the season more feats were accomplished or tied.
Douglas’ 5-0 start tied the start by the 1981 team.
In 2017 the Bulldogs had 72 tackles for loss. This year that number jumped to 110.
Last year’s team only forced six fumbles. This year that number jumped to 20.
Last year there were only six interceptions as a team. This year there were 14.
This year the Bulldogs had 17 fumble recoveries compared to five last year.
Offensively, last year the Bulldogs threw six touchdowns and had 14 interceptions. This year the Bulldogs had 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Rushing, in 2017 the Bulldogs carried the ball 366 times for 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns. This year there were 330 carries for 2,782-yards and 36 touchdowns.
Last year Douglas averaged 15.6 points per game and gave up 35.9. This year those numbers changed to 35.1 points per game scored by the Bulldogs and giving up 16.9.
“We finished fifth (out of 52 schools) in the entire 4A Region in rushing yards as a total team,” the coach said. “We were seventh in 4A in points per game.”
The Bulldogs beat Amphi for the first time since 2009 and had the school’s first road win at a 5A school which was also Douglas’ first ever win against Empire.
“For the first time in the programs history we beat Palo Verde, Catalina, Rio Rico and Amphi all in the same season,” the coach shared. “I am super proud of this team.”
The coach made sure to credit his assistant coaches, some of who are volunteers, who put in long hours as well working with these kids to help build a better program and make them better young men.
He along with his three captains Ernie Bernal, Andres Moreno and Trey Rose thanked everyone including the community for their support during the season.
When asked at the end of the banquet if he was planning on returning as coach next year knowing all that has happened this past season Coach Fitz said he would like to remain as head coach of the Bulldogs but it’s up to the DUSD administration as to whether or not he returns.