Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try to contain their excitement for the start of the football season enough to get through the first slate of games. They also discuss the two defending state champions, Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran.
Before the start of the summer, Coronado coach Brad Talich brushed up on the NIAA’s offseason rules and plotted to get his team into as many competitions as allowed under the guidelines.
The Cougars signed up for local 7-on-7 contests, San Diego State’s passing tournament and, most memorably, UNLV’s league.
“We went out there not expecting anything,” explained senior wide receiver Tanner Gorski. “A lot of people didn’t know how we were going to be. Our whole skill positions are all returners. We came out fighting. We came out and won it all.”
The offseason success bred hype for Coronado, which is trying to win only its second league championship in school history in the realigned Southeast division this season.
The loss of the team’s go-to star of 2013, quarterback and leading rusher Jackson Cofer, no longer seemed as dire. Senior quarterback John Farella came off as well adjusted and prepared to run the offense full-time.
He clicked to an exciting degree with returning targets like Gorski, Michael Simpson and Travis Boman.
“I’m really proud of our quarterback and our offense and how they’ve developed as the spring went on,” Talich said. “I’m really optimistic about our offense.”
Talich must be relieved. A year after guiding Coronado to a 9-3 campaign and a berth in the Sunrise championship game in his first season at the helm with an innovative offense, Talich watched the unit struggle last season.
The Cougars went a disappointing 4-6, with half of their losses coming by a touchdown or less after the offense continually stalled. Luckily for Coronado, many remember an early-season win more than any of the setbacks.
Coronado upset Green Valley 25-21 in its third game, knocking off the nearby Henderson rivals for the second time in less than a year after also eliminating them from the playoffs in 2012. As if that wasn’t enough, Green Valley — with the area’s best quarterback in Christian Lopez — was also Coronado’s victim in the UNLV passing league championship game in June.
Now reunited in the Southeast, it wouldn’t be outlandish to pick the Cougars as a surprise division champion given the fact that they seem to have the Gators’ number.
“With a skilled team and some maturity and leadership, it’s going to take a lot this year to overturn some of our kids,” Talich said. “We expect, as a coaching staff, a lot from them being returners.”
Defense is what kept Coronado competitive last season, and many of the standouts return including senior linebacker Justin Belknap and senior defensive end Myles Holland.
All four linebackers are back, giving the Cougars cohesion that other teams could envy.
“Our linebackers are some of the best in the state for sure,” Belknap said.
Belknap won MVP honors in one passing league over the summer for his staunch defensive play. Talich speaks highly of the pass defense as a whole, listing the secondary right next to linebackers as the team’s biggest strength.
Senior Koy Harris is one of the best safeties in the area. The defensive backfield benefited from the extra reps over the summer just like the offense.
Getting everyone together for the 7-on-7 competitions only strengthened Coronado’s prospects for the season.
“The kids really meshed well and jelled,” Talich said.