Ex-BHS football player Morales catches a coaching pass

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By Leo Wolfson

Nate Morales is coming full circle with the Brighton High School football program. 

Morales played varsity ball with Brighton from 2011 to 2013, earning numerous accolades and a state playoff appearance in 2012. After high school, Morales played two seasons at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, before returning home to Brighton. 

Morales learned a thing or two about adversity when he found himself at the bottom of the depth chart and in low spirits his freshman year at Bethany.

Morales says that, “I was away from my family. I was young, a first-time experience. I just had to get through everything.”

He thanked his coaches for helping him pull through the tough times. By his sophomore season, Morales was a solid contributor for the Swedes, receiving for 226 yards and a touchdown. He says their mentorship resonated and inspired him.


A return to the game

Uncertainty about whether Bethany would continue to exist as a school andan  inability to get a football scholarship anywhere else prompted him to hang up the spikes and finish his criminal justice education at Metropolitan  State University in Denver. While back in town, Morales approached Brighton head coach Casey Pelton about coaching at the start of the 2016 season, allowing him to reconnect with the game he knows and loves and help Brighton youth succeed on the football field.

“I came back, I go, ‘Can I just help out in anyway? I just want to be around the game.,’” Morales said.

Pelton agreed to bring him on. Now, Morales is helping guide a revitalization of the Bulldogs’ program. As wide receivers coach, Morales shows his players the same techniques that helped him evade cornerbacks and earn second-team all -conference honors as a receiver in 2013. 

“It brings back moments. It was tough for me to stop playing but that’s how life goes. I’m absolutely blessed to be a part of this still and just teach these guys not just about football, but about life,” Morales said.

Pelton believes Morales brings a unique coaching skill set to the Bulldogs, as a young former player with recent experience.

“He connects with the guys really well and he’s really passionate about the game,” said Pelton.

Gazing onto the same Brighton fields where he played the game,  small smile etched across his face, Morales speaks with unquestionable pride about his team.

“These kids are some of the best kids I’ve met my whole life and I would rather be with them than anybody else,” said Morales.


Improving little by little

Morales is trying to instill the need for discipline to his players. The Bulldogs have already learned this lesson the hard way, racking up eight penalties in their lone loss to Discovery Canyon, and 10 more in their most recent win against Heritage Sept. 14. 

“Just not focused, taking plays off,” said Morales. “You just got to be ready for a change. Teams will throw something at you you’re not expecting and you’ve got to change it on the fly.”

He stresses to his players the only way to overcome these miscues is with practice and repetition. Like a college professor, Morales makes his students - the players - scrutinize endless game tape.

“You can’t win them all but you sure can learn from them all,” he said.

The team’s progress is undeniable. After finishing 2016 with only one win, the Bulldogs are off to a strong start in 2017, winning two of their three first games.

“The difference this year from last is,” Morales trailing off, for a second seeming at a loss for words for how much progress the Bulldogs are making, “We’re just so much more mature. These kids work all over since the end of last season to the beginning of this one.”

He often mentions Brighton’s historic 2012 season as to how a few small mistakes or lack thereof, can make all the difference.

“My junior year is when we went to playoffs against Cherry Creek. Sophomore year missed playoffs by a game. Same with senior year,” said Morales.

He says this year’s team reminds him a lot of the 2012 bunch and thinks they have an even higher ceiling for accomplishment. 

“I think this team is just as good if not better,” said Morales. “It helps that we’re in a tougher league. so we face tougher teams and they test our skills.”


Bulldog for life

Once Morales gets his degree from Metro State, he hopes to enter the Air Force. He may not always be able to coach, but it’s obvious that his heart will always be with Brighton football.

 “I loved it, I grew up here, been here all my life. Always be a Bulldog,” said Morales.

Email lwolfson@metrowestnewspapers.com.