Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 | 2 a.m.
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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.
Paul Nihipali may be Chaparral High’s first-year head football coach, but he’s no stranger to the Cowboys’ program.
Nihipali has been on the Chaparral staff since 2006 and most recently served as its defensive coordinator, making him the ideal choice to replace Bill Froman because of his familiarity with the players. And two of his children played in the program in the mid-1990s, meaning Nihipali has an intimate knowledge of the program’s traditions.
“I have known these kids for a long time,” he said. “I have watched them grow.”
Nihipali won’t change much from the way Froman operated the program, but he retooled the offense to a spread formation in an attempt to get his playmakers the ball in space.
Three-year quarterback Jerome Williamson, running back Richard Nelson and wide receiver Seitu Wynche have the athleticism to take over the game — something Chaparral has lacked in recent years. It hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and won just eight games total in the past three seasons.
“We are going to widen it out, spread it out a little bit,” Nihipali said. “We have kids that love to run in space. Our strength this year will be the speed on the outside.”
Eric Liggins (5-foot-9, 310 pounds) at center and defensive tackle is one of the league’s most experienced linemen, and linebacker Richie Hernandez was one of the team’s best defenders last season despite being just a sophomore.
“We should be very good. We have the speed. We have the talent,” Williamson said.
Chaparral opens the season Friday by hosting Eldorado in the “Cleat Game,” which is one of Nevada’s oldest rivalries and dates to the 1970s.
With both teams missing the playoffs in recent years, the game has taken on more significance. It could define whether the season is a success. Chaparral won last year in a close game.
“It felt good to be part of (the game) and the tradition to keep the cleat,” Liggins said of last year’s game. “Of course it will stay home.”