Andrew Handrich gathers in a touchdown pass during a 7-on-7 game against Hot Springs.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Socorro has no summertime blues as the Warriors prepare for the upcoming football season with practices, 7-on-7, and a recent camp in Fort Lewis, Colorado.

“It was a great camp for us,” Socorro head coach Damian Ocampo said. “Our linemen actually got to suit up, and that’s something we haven’t gotten to do in the past.”

Ocampo is known for squeezing every moment out of his practices and trips, and going to Fort Lewis was no different as the coach instructed his team to bring their tents and sleeping gear.

“We drove up, stopped along the way, and played a couple of teams and did stuff with their linemen on the way. The weather is beautiful up there in Colorado and northern New Mexico,” Ocampo said.

The warmups against other teams in 7-on-7 challenges were a great precursor to the camp at Fort Lewis, where the Warriors won the linemen challenge, and the skill players posted a 6-1 record. Socorro’s only loss at the camp coming against 4-A Bloomfield.

Alex Amaro moves in to stop a Hot Springs Tiger.

“I thought it was good to get most of our guys out there. We’ve been missing some guys, whether they just have to work or maybe are gone on vacation or something. So, we’ve been shorthanded, and it was good to get most of our guys out there. It’s important for them to start gelling regarding our timing in our passing. We have our work cut out for us,” Ocampo said.

Socorro went 10-1 last season and spent most of that time ranked No. 1 in 3A football, but graduation has cut deeply into the Warriors’ talent pool, and this year’s team will be one of the youngest Ocampo has fielded.

While 7-on-7 football isn’t Ocampo’s favorite activity, he does know it helps his players.

“We get a lot out of it. I wouldn’t say I like going to a lot of tournaments because you run into teams that don’t do what they do during the season. They run a lot of stuff that might help you be a good 7-on-7 team, but it won’t help you come football season,” Ocampo said.

All that aside, Ocampo knows he is seeing his team develop its character, and some players are starting to assume leadership roles.

“That’s something you are always looking for as a coach. Where are your leaders, and what roles are they playing for us,” Ocampo said.

Most coaches gear their 7-on-7 activities on developing their offense and getting their quarterbacks and wide receivers on the same page. That method does hold true for Socorro, but Ocampo looks harder at working his defensive backs.

“I believe that every repetition you take as a quarterback or receiver is so important. Being able to throw the ball, catch the ball, you can clean up a lot of stuff by doing that. So, on offense, I love it during the offseason,” Ocampo said. “On defense, I think it’s imperative because it allows you to get the guys communicating, put in the basics, the adjustments to formations and everything else. As far as defense goes, I think it probably gets overlooked how important it is to do 7-on-7 for the defensive backs, and our defense is so young — we need the reps.”

Socorro got some of those repetitions while hosting Hot Springs on June 9 as 2022 graduates and college-committed talent Caden Moreland, Brian Armijo, Warren Kurtnacker, and Marcus Armijo lined up on the Hot Springs side of the football.

The Tigers have been challenged by their athletes’ summertime activities, too, and the contest allowed Ocampo to turn up the heat on quarterbacks Isaiah Ocampo and Kenyon Scarborough.

“It’s awesome to have these guys that used to play, that are playing in college or headed there. They’re good athletes, and they love coming back and helping us get better,” Ocampo said. “We have a couple of quarterbacks in our system that can help us win. We’d have to tweak things because they have different strengths.”

Receiver Andrew Handrich stood out against Hot Springs with a couple of nice touchdown catches. Jake Angel and Fernando Torres also had big evenings.

The Warriors will host their 7-on-7 football tournament on June 22, with several 5A schools expected to participate in the day-long event that starts at 10 a.m.