Arizona football preview: Pinon, Valley, Ganado, MV, Chinle
Former MV standout sees a lot of potential in team
By Quentin Jodie
PINON, Ariz., August 29, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
L ast year the Pinon football team had a breakout year by making the Arizona Division V state playoffs.
With an 8-2 mark during the regular season, the Eagles entered the state tournament as the No. 13 seed and traveled to play the No. 4 seed Scottsdale Christian.
Needless to say, they were bounced from the tournament but like a handful of programs they would like to make a return trip to the playoffs.
"They ended the season on a good note and this year we want to try and maintain that," Pinon coach Cameron Shepherd said last Saturday during a three-team scrimmage with Ganado and Sanders Valley.
But with a young bunch, the Pinon coach is not prophesying another stellar year.
"I do know this team lost a lot of seniors last year," Shepherd said. "This year our mindset is about rebuilding and doing things correctly. We are focused on technique and discipline."
Shepherd said the goal this year is to get better every week and with a plethora of freshmen and sophomores on his 40-man roster they are going to get plenty of playing time.
"Everyone is going to play because I want to develop our kids," he said. "I don't want them to sit on the shelf for three years and start playing when they are seniors."
And with a JV schedule put in place, Shepherd said the younger kids will have more reps to get better.
"I want them to learn the technique and develop good discipline," he added. "I am here to install good team ethic so I am not too concern about the number of wins we have."
As for the scrimmage, Shepherd said he was pleased with their discipline and execution.
"I saw some positive things out there," he said. "We're working on developing some new skills and see what we really have to work on."
Shepherd said his young squad will have only three home games this season, starting with Round Valley on Friday.
"These kids are going to rack a lot of miles on the bus this year," he said. "We play a new school in Kingman and we also head to Sedona (Red Rock) this year."
Top returners include Tuff Belingachee, Brandon Tsosie and Jusbert Chase, Shepherd said.
For Joshua Catron, the start of the football season can't arrive fast enough.
The second-year Sanders Valley coach has some key returners from last year's 4-6 team that missed the state playoffs.
On Friday, the Pirates open the season at home with Red Mesa.
"This is my second year and I'm excited," Catron said after last Saturday's scrimmage with Pinon and Ganado. "We got a lot of guys that know the scheme so they are able to lead the younger guys."
With an experienced team the former Stanford University graduate said they were able "to put in more plays" at the scrimmage than they did at the halfway mark of last year's season.
"That is a big thing for us to be successful early on inside the season," Catron said. "I think we'll have a much faster start this year. Last year we opened up against Ganado and Window Rock and lost 94-0 in those two games."
Catron said during the summer the school district made some changes regarding academic eligibilities, so it's made it more difficult for players to come out.
"Our numbers are pretty thin," he said. "Last year we started out with 40 players and now we have 22. That has been the challenge but we got some of our leaders back."
Nonetheless, the Valley coach said his key players made an impression on Saturday with junior quarterback Zach Shirley and senior running backs Alec Kee and Marcus Yazzie making huge gains.
"This is our first time we actually went full speed," Catron said. "We hadn't had a chance to even go live tackling until today. I like the level of physicality that I saw, considering it was the first time out.
"This was good for us," he added. "We kind of know what it's like to play at full speed and taking those hits."
Catron said one of the goals is to reach the state playoffs.
"I think it's been awhile since our team has been to the playoffs and it's something that we can accomplish this season," he said.
To achieve that, Catron said they need to dictate the game with clock management.
"Most coaches will preach defense, with the defense having to be the strongest," he said. "But I actually kind of flip it. I want us to control the clock. For me the offense almost acts like the defense because I am going to keep the defense off the field, just by trying to get three, four yards with every carry."
In order to do that, Catron said they will have to shore up some of those bad snaps and fumbles.
"We can't have any turnovers if our offense is going to serve the role of time and possession management," he said.
With changes to the realignment made by the Arizona Interscholastic Association the Pirates have added Red Mesa, Hopi, Alchesay, Holbrook and Miami to their schedule.
"I don't know anything about Miami and Alchesay down south, luckily those games come towards the end of the season," Catron said.
As for Hopi and Red Mesa Catron said "they are somewhat similar to what we've seen on the reservation."
Like the Pirates, the Ganado Hornets have aspirations to play a football game beyond the month of October.
And because of some changes the AIA implemented, the Hornets will have that chance.
"My goal is always to play a game in November," said Ganado coach Brandon Newcomb, who starts his 10th year as a head coach, 24th overall. "No matter what our last game is November 1st so now I would like us to play a November playoff game."
Last season, the Hornets missed that opportunity by dropping two of its last three game. But the one loss that stuck on the most for coach Newcomb was the 22-14 setback to Window Rock.
"That one still bothers me," Newcomb said. "I thought we dominated the game but we had some breakdowns when we got into the red zone where we turned the ball over a few times.
"We were up 14-6 and we probably had four, five chances to score but they got a big play on us and they beat us," he added.
The Hornets did finish the year with a 5-5 mark, which might bode well with some people.
"We've been a .500 team and to some that's the ideal thing," Newcomb said. "But in our society we want wins and we need to get over that hump and be a playoff team. That is our goal."
Newcomb said the biggest thing they need to do is stay injury free and focused in the classroom.
"We don't have a lot but I am pretty pleased with the guys that are here," he said of 44 kids that came out for the team. "We're a small school so it's a matter of us keeping them healthy and keeping them on task with school."
With a boatload of returners, Newcomb said they'll have some speed this year. Some of the talent includes senior quarterback Darrell Boling, senior running back Michaes Pineda and Liam Morez.
"We are pretty fortunate to have a kid like Darrell Boling," Newcomb said. "He's a talented kid that has been at Ganado all four years. Just the last two years he's had a rebirth or a reawakening as being a solid student and a leader in the classroom.
"We are putting everything on his shoulders and we got a couple of guys to help him," Newcomb said of Pineda and Morez.
Because of the personnel, Newcomb said this season should be interesting, while adding that he would like his club to play at a much faster pace.
"This is the most athletic team that I have had in years," he said. "I also think we got some skilled possession guys so we want to try and spread people out."
The Monument Valley football team did not start preparing for this year's football season earlier this month.
That process started months ago during the offseason as the Mustangs returns some key players from last year's team that finished with a 9-2 record.
"With all the travel we did by going to San Diego, Tucson, Durango and to Phoenix for all the camps I believe our kids have played enough football to understand that 'hey we can do this' and get back to where we were last year," Monument Valley coach Bryan Begay said. "Hopefully we can be one of those teams that will be playing in the state playoffs at the end of the year."
Offensively, the Mustangs return first-team all-section, all-state quarterback Redmond Delmar who threw for 2,312 yards and 29 touchdowns.
"It's not every year that you have 6-4 quarterback, especially up here," Begay said. "He's come a long way, he's work real hard and he's been in the weight room."
Begay said he's going to utilize Delmar's leadership since MV lost 15 seniors from last year's squad.
The Mustangs will also have wide receiver Keanu Mitchell and all-state linebacker Travis Grey returning.
Those three seniors will be crucial in determining MV's success as the Mustangs have upgraded their schedule.
They have added perennial powerhouses Show Low and Snowflake in back-to-back games starting with the Cougars on Sept. 20.
"Our main focus is to continue to get better and get off to good start," Begay said. "We'll have some time to get ready for those games but we need to be on our A-game. We can't have turnovers and we have to match them with the same intensity."
On Friday, MV opens the season with Tuba City at home.
Like MV, the Chinle Wildcats have added a few top-notched teams to their schedule.
The one that stands out the most is 14-time state champ Blue Ridge.
The Wildcats are scheduled to pay a visit to Blue Ridge on Sept. 13. A week before that game, they will be hosting St. Johns, a team that should go deep in Division V.
"We have one of the toughest schedules on the reservation," Chinle coach Tim Su'e Su'e. "This is a great schedule and it's going to be tough but I believe the kids are capable of making it to another round at state.
"Our goal is to shoot past the first round," he added. "They only way that we can do that is we need to execute what we do in practice."
With eight returning starters, Sue' Su'e said his squad should be competitive. For Chinle, it's starts with offensive line. With their size and brute strength, the Chinle coach said he expects Donair Mason, Dustin Smith, Sheldon Tsosie and Kordell Chee to make things easy for senior quarterback Wanya Gray.
"They are going to be a big asset to our team," Su'e Su'e said of his linemen.
In addition, the fourth year coach is expecting senior Dominick Yazzie to have another stellar year as the team's leading rusher.
Defensively, Chinle will rely on outside middle linebacker Tye Nelson and senior outside linebacker George John III.
"We lost some great talent last year but we have gained a lot more," Su'e Su'e said. "I believe we have a good core of players who are willing to pursue our goals."
The Wildcats entertain Alchesay tonight at 6:00 p.m.