Originally published Friday, August 10, 2018 at 06:00a.m.

KINGMAN – It’s never easy when a team loses 12 players to graduation, especially when a number of those athletes are significant contributors.

The Kingman Academy High School football team is in the midst of that situation, but it’s created a stronger drive in the battle for starting roles.

“Some kids are starting to lock down some positions a little more so,” said Tigers head coach John Morgando. “Some kids fall off and some kids come on strong right about now when you start putting the pads on. You see who can play and how well. There’s still some competition in some spots, which is good because it pushes those kids to play better and work harder.”

That fact was evident Wednesday as Morgando said Academy had its best practice. There is still plenty of time for the Tigers to outdo themselves in the coming weeks, but it’s a good sign – especially with a number of positions to fill.

“We have three or four sophomores battling for some starting spots on the offensive line,” Morgando said. “It’s going to come down to who does better over the next couple of weeks. That may even change after a game – you never know.”

Academy has plenty of time to prepare for that first game, which is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 24 against Utah’s Canyon View High School.

The contest was supposed to be held at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff to create easier travel for both squads, but plans fell through and now the Tigers are scrambling to figure out what to do.

But Morgando can’t let that fact stop him from getting Academy ready for the season.

Unfortunately, Academy won’t be able to test its skills in a scrimmage as the closest one would have been a six-hour drive.

“Not having a scrimmage will be a little rough on us,” Morgando said. “You don’t get many plays anyway, but you always like it because it’s against somebody else. It’s more like a game than practice. But it’s something we’ll have to deal with.”

Another issue Academy is dealing with is numbers, which aren’t quite where Morgando expected they’d be after the Tigers won the 2A Central Region title last season.

“When you go to the playoffs, you hope for better numbers than the year before,” he said. “We’re a little down – around the 30s. I prefer that to be over 40, but the most we’ve ever had is 42. So it’s not like all of a sudden we get a million more kids out.”

Morgando hopes those numbers grow and that could very likely be the case once Academy starts school Monday.

For now Morgando’s focus is on filling out the depth chart with the most talented players.

As is the case for most teams though, it’s a work in progress.

“There will be some changes,” Morgando said of the depth chart. “Things we’d like to see happen, won’t happen. A player that we think should be a starter not getting the work in or a player we’re surprised in. Some people are pretty well penciled in, but other than that there’s some fluctuations.”