LAFAYETTE — Julio Marquez has figured it out.
It took a little time, some tough love and a lot of hard work, but the Justice senior is in a good place as he heads into his final season at the helm of the Phoenix offense.
"I'm looking forward to us coming together as a team and being able to prove everybody wrong and that we can get it done," the Justice quarterback said. "We are going to break the boundaries of expectation."
And that is not easy at the school that is designed to give a second chance to students that just don't fit the mold of the typical high school.
Marquez came to Justice in need of something drastically different and will graduate in May with his head held high. He has managed to balance football, college level courses and a job this August and in doing so changed his entire life.
"I talk about it all the time with these guys, it's never too late to take a step into the right path," said Marquez, whose team opens the season on Saturday in Nederland. "I tell them that a year ago I would have been in their shoes.
"I would be going out and doing things that wasn't helping me or anybody else and I just want to show them that we can get it done if we are together and it's never too late to turn it around and go the right way."
Said Justice coach Nels Thoreson of his prized-pupil's growth: "He's a special kid and he's turned a lot of his life around and is doing better in all areas from the football field to the classroom and with his family.
"We are hoping for big things from him."
One year ago, the thought of playing football in college was a radical idea. But Marquez is hoping to open some eyes and put enough quality film out there to draw some interest.
"College football is one of my main goals right now," he said. "The colleges don't know that Justice is small or what kind of program we are. They are looking at my work ethic, grade and attendance; all the things that make me a good student/athlete."
For now, Marquez and the latest group of Phoenix are hoping to reverse the fortunes of the last two teams. Justice has won just one game over the past two seasons and they are now in a newly formed Central League where they think they can do some damage.
Justice plays its home games at Christian Recht Field in Boulder and will have the benefit of playing their final three league games at home against Miami-Yoder, Pikes Peak Christian and their season finale against Rocky Mountain Lutheran.
COACH: Nels Thoreson (4rd season, 2-23).
LAST YEAR: 0-9 overall, 0-6 A-8 Central League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Mario Diaz (So., OL/DL, 5-8, 150); Julio Marquez (Sr., QB/LB, 6-0, 175); Pedro Martinez (Jr., OL/DL, 5-9, 185); Joseph Middaugh (Jr., TE/DL, 5-9, 165); Eriq Warren (Sr., WR/DB, 5-7, 140) .
OTHERS TO WATCH: Brian Acosta (So., FB/LB, 5-8, 185); David Briones (Jr., WR/LB, 5-9, 140); Josiah Coronado (Sr., WR/DB, 6-1, 150); Victor Cortez (So., WR/DB, 5-7, 145); Vince Cortez (Jr., RB/DB, 5-7, 150); Dakota Elliott (So., TE/DE, 6-0, 170); Ismael Farah (So., RB/DB, 5-7, 140); Justin Hunyadi (Jr., WR/LB, 6-1, 165); Zach McFarland (So., WR/DB, 5-11, 150); Enrique Romero (Jr., TE/DE, 6-2, 175); Jerald Romero (Sr. QB/WR/DB, 5-9, 150); Matt Skertich (Jr. OL/DL, 5-10, 250); Jose Torres (So., OL/DL, 5-8, 210).
DIVISION I/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Marquez.
MUST-SEE GAME: Oct. 29 vs. Rocky Mountain Lutheran.
STRENGTHS: Overall team speed amongst a bunch of returnees that have experience and most of toughness.
WEAKNESSES: Chemistry and size. "I really never know what I am going to have until my first practice," Thoreson said.
Sept. 3 — at Nederland, 1 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Hayden, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 — PLATEAU VALLEY, 5 p.m.
Sept. 24 — Bye
Oct. 1 — at Belleview Christian*, noon
Oct. 8 — at South Park*, 1 p.m.
Oct. 15 — MIAMI-YODER*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 22 — PIKES PEAK CHRISTIAN, 4 p.m.
Oct. 29 — ROCKY MOUNTAIN LUTHERAN*, 2 p.m.
Note: Home games at Christian Recht Field in upper case.
Asterisk indicates Class A 8-man Central League game.