Prep football: 1A South preview
Diamond Ranch Diamondbacks
There's something about stepping onto the turf at Diamond Ranch that gets Robbie Dias' players ready to compete. The yellow-and-black diamondback markings are as unique as the students at the 1A school outside Hurricane. And nobody at Diamond Ranch is as unique as quarterback Noah Courtney.
A 6-foot-7 wide receiver and pitcher has made the transition to playing under center, and Dias believes Courtney's physical and mental domination will be a game-changer in 1A.
"He's a gamer hard-nosed, tough, and can stay in the pocket even when it is collapsing around him," Dias said. "He's got a huge arm and knows how to make a good decision."
If Courtney has to run, Dias warned that he runs a 4.6-second 40 and can drive through defensive backs.
Strong safety Trevor Alverez will anchor the defense. Described as pugnacious, Alverez led the team in tackles last year.
"Just tough real tough and mean," Dias said. "Trevor is definitely ready for the challenge. He hits really hard."
Brothers Steve and Luke Hoffman will help in the corner spots. Both 6-foot-4, the Hoffman brothers will contribute with taking away the pass from opponents.
"I believe we have a really hungry group. This is a group that loves football and are very passionate about it," Dias said. "We might have fallen short in the past, but we're ready to get over that hump."
Last season • 6-6
Key returner • Strong safety Trevor Alverez will lead the Diamondbacks on the defensive side. Tough and physical, expect the senior to lead the team in tackles.
Player to watch • Quarterback Noah Courtney is a 6-foot-7 beast in the pocket. He boasts good decision-making and can air the ball out. He also has excellent speed when he needs to run.
Biggest hole • Confidence. Coach Robbie Dias is working to convince the players they are as good as he believes they are.
Need to know • The Diamondbacks have the Monticello game circled. Regional rivals, the bad blood between the schools will make for a good game Oct. 10.
Bucky Orton has enviable problems in Lane Anderson and Monty Glover.
The two sophomore quarterbacks will split time under center throughout Kanab's upcoming season. Glover is a traditional pass-and-run quarterback while Anderson is a wiry runner that can make big plays in open field. Orton is excited about finding the best way to use them and having a good future with them.
"They're both fierce competitors," Orton said. "I like having my best athletes in that position to give us the best opportunities."
The Cowboys will be a young team with nose guard Jace Little taking charge. Orton describes senior Little as a "motor" that has taken the underclassmen under his wing.
"Real blue-collar player and a great leader," Orton said. "We're happy as heck to have him teach the kids how to play the right way. He's a kid that knows simply how to lead."
Along with Little, Orton is expecting Alex and Aaron Foster to help cement the defense. The leading team tacklers last year, the Foster Brothers are expected to anchor the defense as they try to advance past the semifinals this season. With most players at the school three-sport athletes, Orton said his team is coming into weight camp in great shape ready to compete.
"We're a young team, but I am excited about our commitment and energy," Orton said. "We're working to make sure we play our best ball. We'll take our lumps this year, but we'll be in every game."
Last season • 6-6
Key returner • Nose guard Jace Little will be anchoring the young defense with both his power at the line and leadership of the young defense.
Players to watch • QBs Lane Anderson and Monty Glover will split time. Kanab's best athletes, Anderson will be used in read-option situations, while Glover can get it done with both his legs and arm.
Biggest hole • Youth. With only five seniors, Kanab's roster is mostly sophomores, meaning they'll be leaning hard on Little.
Need to know • After losing 18-13 to Rich in the semifinals last season, the Cowboys will have the Oct. 3 rematch on the road circled on their calendars.
Monticello takes pride in playing both ways.
The Buckaroos consider themselves tougher than other programs, with a slew of replacement players on the sidelines. Makade Maloy, Cole Eldridge and Braydon Musselman are the core three for Monticello, and they have no problem lining up on either side of the ball.
"There is an ego in knowing that they are tougher than other teams in having to ply each way," coach Art Adair said. "My only concern is them not having enough in the tank to finish off games."
Maloy is returning under center as quarterback. Described as having great focus and drive, Adair thinks the difference with Maloy isn't just his toughness, but his football IQ.
"Great kid, real smart. Knows just how to read a defense," Adair said. "We are definitely relying a lot on him to step up and lead our team."
Eldridge and Musselman will set up behind Maloy. As a one-two punch for the Buckaroos, Adair is excited to see how the seniors will finish off the season.
"I like their toughness both in the backfield and on defense," Adair said. "They're working hard to pick up the other boys and getting everyone ready."
Adair said that with only 34 players on the roster, expect the offense to look almost identical to the defense. Adair will be using underclassmen to fill in the ranks.
"We've really preached that this team is a brotherhood that sticks together," Adair said. "Good play, bad play it doesn't matter we're all out here working to get that win."
Monticello hosts San Juan on Aug. 22.
Last season • 4-7
Key returner • Senior Makade Maloy will return as quarterback. A smart, physical player, expect Maloy to rack up yards both in the air and with his feet.
Players to watch • Cole Eldridge and Braydon Musselman will be rushing for the Buckaroos, as well as leading the defense.
Biggest hole • Depth. Adair is concerned that players having to go both ways might not leave enough in the tank to get through the 4th quarter.
Need to Know • Monticello has 34 players on the roster, with only six seniors. All players on the roster are expected to play for the Buckaroos.
Monument Valley Cougars
Playing football for Monument Valley High School isn't easy.
The school is located on the edge of the iconic scenic valley right on the Utah-Arizona border, meaning long-distance travel for the majority of its games. Most of the athletes have never played the game before strapping on pads for the first time in high school. Since the team is lucky to have 25 players most years, players have to go both ways.
Yet the Cougars finished 3-6 last year, losing to eventual 1A champion Duchesne in the quarterfinals. And watching a game at the scenic field is one of the real delights in Utah high school sports.
"We are hoping and expecting to have a very good year," said coach Jim Dandy. "Our strengths are speed and experience. We are in a very tough region, but we feel like we can compete with all the other great teams."
Top returning players are running back and linebacker Terrell Blackmountain, quarterback and defensive end Keevin Bedonie, wide receiver and cornerback Sergio Morales, and running back and linebacker Malcolm Begay.
"My biggest concern going into the season would be the young players and how they will adjust, and also injuries because of playing 'ironman' football," said Dandy.
The coach said that since most players have no experience when they start the program, it takes them until their junior years to be effective players.
"I'm very happy how many of these players put a lot of effort into getting better every year," he said. "Most of them get pretty good at playing the game when they get into their junior year."
Last season • 3-6
Key returners • Running back and linebacker Terrell Blackmountain and quarterback and defensive end Keevin Bedonie should lead the Cougars this year.
Player to watch • Wide receiver Sergio Morales and running back Malcolm Begay could be scoring threats.
Biggest hole • The team only has 25 players, so depth could be a major issue.
Need to know • A national magazine put the Monument Valley football field in a story that included LSU's Death Valley, Michigan's Big House, Notre Dame Stadium and Green Bay's Lambeau Field as places to watch a football game before you die.
First-year Whitehorse coach Eldon Chee is filled with optimism one week before a season-opening game with rival Monument Valley.
Despite a 1-7 record last year and a 4-35 mark since 2009, Chee thinks the Raiders could use a veteran corps of seniors and juniors coupled with freshmen coming up from a junior high program to be much improved.
Top players J.R. Todachinnie, a receiver and defensive back with aspirations of playing college ball, and middle linebacker Orlando Thompson give their coach hope.
"We have a positive attitude and we are striving to get them to trust what I am teaching them," said Chee. "I think we will have a good season."
Chee said a junior high program, which teaches his players fundamentals, is helping improve Whitehorse's overall talent level.
Last year • 1-7
Key returner • Receiver and defensive back J. R. Todachinnie, would like to play in college.
Player to watch • Middle linebacker Orlando Thompson looks like a good prospect.
Biggest hole • With only 23 players on the team as of Friday, the Raiders can't afford injuries.
Need to know • The school is located in Montezuma Creek in a remote part of southeastern Utah on the Navajo Indian reservation and has fielded some good basketball teams in recent years.