Originally published Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 07:30a.m.

KINGMAN – Kingman High School football coach Cam Wierson gathered the team following Wednesday’s practice and preached a simple fact – it takes a strong work ethic to be a Bulldog.

That message was heard loud and clear by a number of athletes, including Edwin Aguirre.

“Like coach says, ‘It takes a ton of grit to play on this football team,’” the senior said.

Kingman has had to dig even deeper for that mettle over the last few weeks as numbers have dwindled due to several factors.

But the Bulldogs aren’t making excuses.

Instead they’re focused on who is out on the practice field preparing for a 7 p.m. contest Friday at No. 23 ranked Chino Valley (3-3, 0-1 3A West Region).

“We just need to come together as one,” senior Patrick Corbin said. “We were more together last game than we were the game before. We’re coming together more as brothers – we’re one big family. To win the game, we need to be as one. Everyone needs to do their job and play their hearts out all four quarters.”

The 29th-ranked Bulldogs (3-3, 0-1) have spent the last two weeks focusing on their defense, and they know pressure on that side of the ball will go a long way in playing a complete game.

In order to find that success, Kingman needs to stop Chino Valley’s Michael Paulus. The senior has accounted for 579 total yards in a variety of roles – quarterback, running back and receiver.

“Chino has a great ball carrier in Paulus,” said Bulldogs head coach Cam Wierson. “He’s probably the offensive MVP in our conference. They use a lot of different ways to get Mikey the ball in space.”

However, Wierson believes Kingman and Chino Valley are “fairly even-matched programs” if you take away Paulus. So that will obviously be the game plan for the Bulldogs.

“Coach is focusing a lot on defense,” Aguirre said. “We’re trying to shut down their run game and the passing.”

But the coaching is going beyond the Xs and Os.

Kingman’s senior leaders are making sure the underclassmen are ready to take the reins down the road.

“We try to teach all the freshmen that it’s not like eighth grade or junior high – ‘You guys are playing against almost grown men that are going out of high school and ready to go into the world,’” Corbin said. “We teach them to be safe and play with their hearts, no matter what they play. Even if they play one snap, to play their hearts out.”

Only time will tell how much that helps the Bulldogs’ future development, but right now Wierson and his staff are making sure everyone gives 100 percent when they step on the field.

“We’re living our moments in the moment, focused on the process of getting better,” Wierson said. “I don’t care if I’m the head coach at Kingman, or at the University of Arizona, I’m going to demand my players’ whole world is to focus their efforts on getting better one rep at a time.”