Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 | 8 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.
This is the season the Mojave football program has long targeted for making a serious run at the state championship.
And they have the personnel to get the job done.
The Ratters have arguably the best returning running back, regardless of classification, in Nevada. Senior Ty Flanagan is a three-year starter who averaged 11.06 yards per carry last season in rushing for 1,183 yards and 14 touchdowns.
At quarterback, Mojave returns another three-year starter in Zack Arave. Arave is one of six players who started as sophomores in 2012 when Mojave won a playoff game and lost by just four points to Division I-A power Moapa Valley in the round before the state semifinals.
“We know we have a lot of pressure on us and a lot of expectations, but the kids expect more than everyone who is out there,” coach Joe Delgado said. “If we live up to those expectation, we’ll be alright.”
Last season, though, wasn’t step in the right direction. Mojave was shutout by Virgin Valley in the first round of the playoffs and had some discipline problems that proved impossible to overcome.
So, instead of being considered one of the favorites this season, the Rattlers first have to battle for bragging rights in their own league. Faith Lutheran won the state championship last season and are again one of the favorites. That’s motivation for Mojave’s eight returning starters on each side of the ball, knowing if they didn’t slip last season they could have went on a deep playoff run, too.
“It comes down to discipline once again and we’ve worked a lot on that in the offseason,” Delgado said.
While Flanagan and Arave are two of Mojave’s best players, Delgado knows they aren’t the most important. If Anthony Vereen (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), Frankie Contreras (6 foot 1, 290-pounds) and Moises Jaugerui (5 foot 10, 200-pounds) aren’t productive on the offensive line, the Rattlers’ offense will have a hard time scoring points.
Mojave must also establish its passing game so the opposition doesn’t load the line of scrimmage trying to stop Flanagan. Junior Jaylon Delgado, who averaged 16 yards per reception in 2013, is Arave’s primary target.
Defensively, juniors Daijon Payno at defensive tackle and Kaleb Friedman at linebacker will lead the charge. Vereen and Contreras also play on the defensive line, providing the Rattlers with the size and the strength in the trenches to be competitive.
“We have to stay disciplined,” Contreras said. “We kind of fell apart when we are losing. If we stay disciplined, and do what we do best, we can beat anybody.”
Mojave High School is Rattler Nation, but really it’s home to underdogs.
Minutes from the Nellis Air Force Base the school is nestled near Commerce Street and West Ann Road, an area littered with foreclosed homes.
The school is attended by many students who are underprivileged or at-risk. After Mojave failed to meet No Child Left Behind standards it became one of five Clark County Schools determined to do a 180.
In order to make the turnaround a reality, Mojave has implemented new faculty, extended the school day by 20 minutes and is geared towards boosting school spirit.
“The problem we have right now is that our children aren’t proud of their own school,” Mojave principal Antonio Rael explained an August interview. “When our children begin to take pride in our school, our community will follow.”
- Year built:
- Rattle Snake
- Principal (Year Hired):
- Antonio Rael (2001)
- School motto:
- “Promoting Achievement, Creating Success”
- Mission Statement:
- “The Mission of the Mojave High School Community is to provide a safe learning environment that will empower students to develop excellence, pride, respect, and skills necessary for future success.”
- Approximately 2,000
- School Report Card:
Compiled by Gregan Wingert