While having a young roster may have proved challenging for the Loving last season, the team enters this year with valuable experience and new depth. Eight seniors will lead a roster of almost 35 athletes — some of the largest numbers Loving has seen in several years.
Head coach Tyler Finch said he is confident in the seniors' ability to contribute around the field and serve as role models for younger teammates.
"They're very committed," Finch said of the senior class. "We're just excited for that group to not only perform well on the field, but elevate the performance of those athletes around them as well."
It is Finch's third season at the helm of the Falcons program, though he previously served as the team's offensive coordinator. Because Finch took over the head coaching role in 2020, his first two seasons leading the Falcons were significantly impacted by the pandemic.
Now, after the Falcons' first normal offseason in three years, Finch is optimistic about the impacts of the team's hard work, much of which has focused on strength training, conditioning and injury prevention.
"We're focusing on flexibility, but we're also focusing on strength, power and agility," Finch said. "We're really trying to target the whole athlete. Now that we've gotten back into our normal setting and we're able to have some of those offseason activities, we're really able to work through that program the way that we wanted to."
Finch said increasing neck strength, lat strength and shoulder strength to help minimize the risk of concussions is among the team's priorities of injury prevention. The team also incorporated band exercises and yoga into the offseason to target the entire body and aid in joint relief.
While preventing injuries is the team's goal, the Falcons are also fortunate to have one of their largest rosters in recent years, should injuries arise. In addition to eight seniors, a balance of freshmen, sophomores and juniors — ranging from eight to 12 athletes in each grade — gives the Loving team depth.
Last season, the Falcon squad had three seniors, which forced the team to rely upon then-sophomores and juniors who will now serve as upperclassmen leaders. The result, Finch says, was the development of a strong team culture that the Falcons will carry into this season.
"We really set the foundation of what we wanted to be as a team," Finch said of last season. "We have a team pyramid built on our team acronym — 'T' for trust, 'E' for empowerment, 'A' for accountability and 'M' for mindset. Being able to come together as a team last year, it didn't result in wins on the field, but we definitely feel like our culture grew."
Loving finished 1-9 last season, but is hoping to use the lessons from this offseason to improve in 2A competition. The Falcons will compete in District 4-2A with Jal, Eunice, Texico and Hagerman.
Players to watch
"Our senior class in general," Finch said. "We really have a team mindset."
Aug. 18, at Carlsbad JV, 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 25, Alamogordo JV, 6 p.m.
Sept. 2, Tucumcari, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9, Capitan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16, at Mescalero Apache, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23, New Mexico Military Institute, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30, Jal, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14, at Eunice, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21, Texico, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28, at Hagerman, 7 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Loving football to rely on experience, depth in 2022