Fossil Ridge quarterback Travis Avila had high hopes for his senior football season after being named all-conference following his junior year at Yorba Linda (Calif.) El Dorado.
He wanted to be on a winning football team after his previous team finished 3-7, but he would have to make that happen in a different environment after his father’s job moved the family to Fort Collins.
Avila moved to Colorado in December and worked out with the SaberCats during winter break, trying to prove he belonged by working as hard as he could.
He met with Fossil Ridge coach Steve Vecchio to ask if he could compete for the starting quarterback job with Michael Reyna. Sure enough, Avila won the competition and impressed his coach with the way he handled becoming a leader on the team with Reyna rather than usurping him.
“We were completely comfortable and set moving forward with the the quarterback we had in the program,” Vecchio said. “Travis wanted to be a quarterback, be a leader, and in our system, sought out ways to complement the group of seniors and not displace them.”
Avila adapted to Fossil Ridge’s system easily, throwing for 2415 yards and 22 touchdowns against only nine interceptions while rushing for 454 yards and four scores.
“It wasn’t too hard, I ran the spread in California, and they were setting up to run the spread here. I knew all the reads, all the pass-outs,” Avila said. “What was hard was the terminology and how they set up all of the formations and motions. When it came down to it, though, all the reads and routes are the same, just get into base formation, the base play first and go from there. It came natural to me.”
What didn’t come natural was the losing. Fossil Ridge started the season 0-5 before picking up its first win against Rocky Mountain.
Even in the games Fossil Ridge lost, Avila gave opponents headaches with his arm and his legs.
“He has a quick release of the football and made really good decisions on where to throw the ball. He’s real shifty and elusive back there throwing the ball,” Fort Collins coach Eric Rice said. “Several times guys had him dead-to-rights and he did the old John Elway swing. He made us miss a couple times when we had our sights set on him. He has all the attributes you’d want from someone playing that quarterback position.”
Despite their poor record, Avila and the SaberCats only lost one game by more than 20 points and were in many of their remaining battles until the end.
“Every week we went in on Monday and believed we could win, but we made stupid mistakes that cost us the game,” Avila said. “The hardest part wasn’t losing, but the fact that we had the game in our hand.”
But Avila learned from that adversity. He focused more on his preparation and the mental part of the game as the season progressed.
He even took it upon himself to make sure the rest of the offense was up to speed on their playbook so they would be crisp when the games started.
Fossil Ridge’s coaches put a lot of faith and trust in Avila and his decision-making on the field, and he rewarded that with results.
“He’s a guy who wanted the ball in his hand and knew that when we gave him that opportunity he was going to make plays,” Vecchio said. “He played with a great deal of determination and will. We had some tough games but we played close in all of those games. His will was a lot of the reason we were close.”