Hagerman High School football

Head Coach Mark Kress gives quarterback Ashton Ruffing some advice on throwing the ball Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, at Hagerman High School in Hagerman.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

HAGERMAN — There were a few key reasons why the Hagerman Pirates stumbled to the finish line a season ago.

After a 4-0 start, Hagerman lost its last five contests, including a 48-6 drubbing by eventual champion Valley in the first round of the 1AD1 playoffs, by at least 18 points a game. It was a far cry from the 2013 squad that went undefeated en route to a state championship.

Fifth-year head coach Mark Kress pointed to a pair of downfalls that led to the Pirates’ misfortunes. The first is that, plain and simple, their schedule was back loaded. Each of Hagerman’s final five games was against an eventual playoff opponent, with two of those coming against champion Valley.

The other reason Kress goes back to is a lack of bodies. By the end of the year, his team was down to just 13 players available for action.

“We knew that we had some good kids. We knew that we could be competitive. We thought we could be competitive,” Kress said. “(But we had the) same kids that were playing offensive line and defensive line.”

Heading into 2016, the Pirates return four starters on each side of the ball. The biggest question mark will lineup under center, as Kress said there is currently a group of seniors alternating at quarterback.

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If Hagerman is going to return to a championship level, the quarterback spot has to get better, according to Kress.

“We just haven’t been able to do that well,” said Kress. “You can be a kid who can throw a ball 50 yards, but if you can’t put it on target it doesn’t matter.”

Despite its less than stellar ending to the season in 2015, Hagerman did earn a playoff berth. With many new faces all around the Snake River Conference, Kress believes his team will compete on a weekly basis, though not necessarily be one of the favorites.

“I expect us to be competitive. I don’t see us as being in the top three teams,” Kress said. “But we want to see if we can be.”

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