Regardless of the challenges that have been put in front of La Junta football coach Clint Buderus, he and his players have risen to them. The Tigers just completed a three-game stretch in which they beat Kent Denver, The Classical Academy and Manitou Springs. At the time, the Sun Devils were the No. 1 team in Class 2A. TCA was ranked No. 2 and Manitou Springs was No. 4. Two dominating performances sandwiching a last-second Hail Mary win have put La Junta in the driver's seat in 2A, both in terms of state rankings and RPI. For now though, Buderus says the only goal that his team has is to win the Tri-Peaks. After taking down Manitou and TCA, the Tigers are certainly the favorites. After completing one of the more difficult trio of games that anyone would see this year, the Tigers look more than up to that task. And while they may not openly talk about it, they are still focused on making a run at the state championship that eluded them last season.
With La Junta looking like the clear-cut favorite in 2A, Buderus has been named the Denver Broncos High School Football Coach of the Week.
Q: Why do you coach?
I've been around (football) my whole life. My son being in the locker room is a reminder of me being in that locker room when I was his age. It's kind of what I always wanted to do. We grew up with it and watch my dad (Mark) do it and just being around the kids, helping the kids, watching them grow. We have a kid who had trouble passing classes and now he's playing for us. With kids like that, if you can make a difference and help them see how to be a good person and citizen, it makes a big difference.
Q: Why do you coach the way that you coach?
Probably because of my dad. A lot of stuff goes back to him and how we grew up and watched him coach and how he had so much success. So probably from him and some the other coaches I had in college. Sometimes, it's what not to do, but they've all shaped the way we coach and the way I coach. We have a great staff with my dad and my brother. They've been around all our coaches for four or five years right now and they kind of know what to expect.
Q: What's it like to be coached by you?
I think they think I'm hard on them. That I expect a lot from them. Especially our seniors. They know what I expect from them and it's not just out on the field. It's in the classroom and being good citizens and being respectful. I don't let them wear their hats backwards. Just try to be good people and hopefully things they can carry for the rest of their lives. They're going to say I'm hard on them, no doubt about that. I expect a lot from them.
Q: How do you define success through your coaching?
Oh, I don't know. Like that kid (who wasn't passing classes), if I can make them better when they leave than they were when they came to me, that's a big part of it. Obviously winning and losing, but really helping kids and helping them be better people is a big part of it too.
Q: You just got through a murderer's row of a schedule, what does this do for a team's confidence moving forward? Lamar will play its best game of the season against us. We have a big target on our back. Everybody is going to give us their game and we have to prepare like that. I think we had a little bit of a letdown last week, I don't think we played our best game (against Manitou).
Q: You've already beaten the other top teams in the Tri-Peaks League, so what is your focus for this final stretch of the season?
Our number one goal is to win the league. We still have three (league games) to go. So that means we have to win all nine. The kids know that and we preach it all the time and they talk about it all the time. We want to host in the playoffs. That's the goal, win league and host in the playoffs.