Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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kickoff 2014:

Desert Pines has new players in crucial spots, still expects to contend

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

From left, Desert Pines High School football players Andre Watts, Natron Auelua-Naki and Jon McCoy July 21, 2014.

Desert Pines High School football preview

Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer talks to key players from Desert Pines High School's football team ahead of their 2014 season.

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The season begins

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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.

There aren’t many high school football teams in Nevada faced with this rebuilding project.

Desert Pines lost its top four offensive players from 2013 to graduation — all four are playing college football this season. They helped Desert Pines come within a touchdown of reaching the Division I-A state semifinals, losing in the fourth quarter to eventual state champion Faith Lutheran.

Replacing the production won’t be easy. But Desert Pines coaches doesn’t expect much of a decline, saying they have the talent to again compete for a championship.

“We won’t be as explosive, but with the experience up front (on the offensive line), the young guys will have an opportunity,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said.

Sophomore running back Isaiah Morris, who runs a 10.8 second 100-yard dash and won a state track championship last spring on a sprinting relay team, could have a breakout season. Also, Andre Watts and Jon McCoy at wide receiver and defensive back are two of the best athletes in the entire classification.

“Our mindset has to be right,” McCoy said. “We have to try to keep it going and continue on from last year.”

Desert Pines typically has some of the area’s most well-put-together linemen, with Natron Naki (6 foot 2, 335 pounds) and Marvin Coleman returning to lead the front line. They deserve some of the credit for players such as Tim Hough (UNLV) and Eric Wilkes (Weber State) have successful seasons in 2013.

“We are trying to protect our young quarterback and give him the confidence to get the ball to our receivers so they can do their job, and open holes for our running back so they can do their job,” Naki said.

Desert Pines is again expected to compete with perennial power Moapa Valley for bragging rights in the Sunrise Division. Last year, Moapa Valley got the best of Desert Pines. And on the junior varsity level, the lone Desert Pines loss came to Moapa Valley.

“Our kids like the big stage of playing at Moapa Valley in front of their big crowd,” Rodriguez said.

If Desert Pines, which went 9-2 last season, continues winning games, it will get to play in plenty of those big-time games.

“Knowing we were really close made us work really hard going into the offseason,” Naki said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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