Pacheco gears up to take the snaps for Del Norte

Courtesy photo Jace Pacheco of Del Norte prepared for the 2021 season in Commerce City and North Canton.

DEL NORTE — Del Norte Sophomore Jace Pacheco hasn’t always been a big fan of football. As a young kid Pacheco couldn’t quite find the appeal of the sport until, like many, he was introduced to Madden NFL. Coming in on the 2013 rendition, Pacheco was most interested in the quarterback position and there have been a number of prolific talents to model his game after. In 2013 it was Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Then it was Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is unquestionably a gamechanger with his preparedness and football IQ, “Being a student of the game,” says Jace acknowledging what parts of his game he takes from Manning.

Now Pacheco compares himself to Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills who Jace values for his toughness, “I like the way he plays, I try to play like him”.

But the source of Pacheco’s interest in football could very well have begun with older brother Jonathan ‘Jono’ Pacheco who terrorized defenses from the backfield for the Tigers during his senior year to the tune of a 25-point average margin of victory in a 9-2 2006-07 season.

Jace doesn’t shy away from any kind of sibling rivalry, “It would be nice to be able to tell him I was a better quarterback than he was.”

This summer Pacheco spent time honing his craft in Commerce City for the USA Football US National Team camps/tryouts. The USA National Team 2021 Regionals have once featured players like New England Patriot N’Keal Harry and Kansas City Chief Tyrann Mathieu.

At camp, the athletes, more specifically – attending quarterbacks, got the chance to participate in full-pad practice, passing drills, coverage classes, as well as work with formations, routes and game-time situations.

Based at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the regional round of the Camp/Tryouts saw a large group of athletes competing for the opportunity to earn an invite to the national level.  Twelve athletes in each position would get the opportunity to see that invitation.

Jace was one of them at the quarterback level.

From Commerce Park Pacheco was then invited to advance to the National camp to display his abilities at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, less than a 15-minute drive from the Pro Football Hall of Fame which Jace and his father Jerry Pacheco took the time to visit.

Camp has been a great help for Pacheco who has gotten a chance to dull his weaknesses and sharpen his strengths. Self-described, Jace’s biggest weakness is making his decisions too quickly. Which he feels he has learned to have a little more patience in the pocket. His biggest strength? “(It’s) probably my deep ball accuracy.”

Del Norte is 2 years into their new school and one year into their new league, 1A Southern Peaks. The Tigers’ return to the 11-man arena has been rather rocky. They enter a difficult division run by neighbors Monte Vista and Centauri and the first season was marred as it was for many by COVID. Del Norte ground out a 1-4 record in 2020-21 getting their lone win of the year against Dolores 30-0.

But the big bullies of the division have not gone anywhere. Perennial Southern Peaks Champions Centauri will be looking to defend their territory, and Pacheco recognizes the threat in La Jara.

“That’s a good class right now that Centauri has... they’ve just got (good) athletes.”

Pacheco will be looking to earn the starting spot for the Tigers for the 2021-22 season. Del Norte opens their campaign on the road August 28 against Platte Canyon. The Huskies finished second in the 1A Foothills League with a 3-3 overall record in 2020. Del Norte will then host their home opener against Gunnison (3-3, 2020-21) the following week, September 3.