WINDSOR - Under the lights up north, tradition runs deep. No matter the amount of time that has passed, some rituals stay the same.
"[Windsor] is one of the few one-horse towns left in the state that plays relatively big-school football," Wizards head coach Chris Jones said.
"I definitely feel like Windsor's a football town, because I've lived here all my life, and I just remember spending Friday night coming to games and watching games," senior Brett Freitag added.
Windsor High School's first football team laced up in cleats nearly 100 years ago this fall. Back then, the program was small, though it never lacked heart.
"1918 was the first year they played football at Windsor," Jones said. "On the first team, they had 14 players, so those guys played the entire time."
Even though this year's squad has well over 70 student-athletes, the Wizards decided the tradition of 14 will return this season. Every player will compete to become one of the 14 -- a player who can be relied upon to play both sides of the ball, a leader on and off the field, and an example for future players of the program.
"Those are the guys we'll rely on the most, and whenever they're on the field, we just know they have each other's backs," senior Jaedyn Traut said.
"We're just going to work for each other and take care of each other on and off the field," senior Brayden Pedersen added. "You just got to help your brothers out."
The 14 will be selected based on their participation during the pre-season, but also in the classroom, in the community and at home. The reward includes an opportunity to be a starter on both offense and defense like the original 14 Wizards were forced to do a century ago, but it's more intrinsic than that. Jones says the goal is to permanently change his players' mindsets to always push themselves to get ahead in life.
"Just having something out there should lead to something greater in life, [like] when they're at a job, when there's an opportunity for promotion," he said. "Hey, do these things, and you may be able to get to that next level."
The Wizards are seeking that next level success. Many of this year's seniors were members of Windsor's 2015 state championship roster. They know what it takes to make it to Sports Authority Field in December.
"It was exciting, I mean, all of us came together," Pedersen said. "The leadership on that team was awesome, and it was cool to see everyone come together and work for each other."
By the start of zero week, Jones and his staff will aim to have the 'Windsor 14' selected, but it appears the effect of the program is already being felt. Even though this team is more than quadruple the size of the Wizards back in 1918, they mesh as if they were no more than a dozen.
"I think there's some pressure, but we embrace it, and we just know it's a great opportunity for those individuals," Traut said.
"There's a lot of pride and honor that comes with it because you know it's a big responsibility" Freitag said. "To know that all of the coaches and teammates trust you to take on a big role, it gives you confidence that you can complete this task, even though it can be a little nerveracking."
Windsor football is taking an old-school approach of working for each other, so a familiar tradition lives on.
"I think you're playing for the town and everybody who's come through this program, not just the guys on the field tonight," Freitag said.
Windsor opens the regular season on Friday, September 1 at 7 p.m. at Vista Ridge. The Wizards are ranked No. 5 in the 4A football Colorado High School Activities Association preseason poll.
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