Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Vestiges of last decade’s Las Vegas High dynasty, in which the Wildcats won two state championships, still remain in the local high school football community.
One piece has drifted 85 miles north to Mesquite, as former Las Vegas High assistant Chris Sawyers starts his tenure as Virgin Valley’s football coach this season.
“Many of the things I’ve implemented, I learned from there,” Sawyers said of his time as a Wildcat. “From weight training to being tough minded to just how to run practice, I’ve taken a lot.”
Sawyers replaces the retired Kirk Hafen, who led the Bulldogs to two state championships and several memorable seasons in more than 20 years at the helm.
Sawyers has dismantled almost everything except the tradition and 4-3 defense. After spending one year at Dixie High in Utah, Sawyers arrives in Virgin Valley equipped with the spread offense and a new mentality.
“We’re trying to build a hard-working, physical team,” Sawyers said. “I’m going to coach what I feel is best for our guys. My predecessor had some different philosophies. That’s all.”
Sawyers immediately found a player who personified all the attributes he hopes his team develops in junior Dee Bowler. The running back and linebacker has pushed his teammates in practice beyond what’s normally expected.
Senior lineman Jared Walther, senior receiver/linebacker Tyson Teerlink and junior tight end/safety Dillon Graves have also established themselves in leadership roles. Teerlink and Graves are among a group of players who should benefit monstrously from the spread. It’s undetermined who will throw them the ball more frequently: senior Cristian Aguirre or junior Garrett Leavitt.
“They’re in a pretty big battle right now,” Sawyers said. “Cristian is more of a scrambler; get him outside of the pocket and he runs well. Garrett throws the ball much better, so they can do different things.”
Even though the Bulldogs return 13 starters from last year’s team that took rival Moapa Valley to overtime in the playoffs, Sawyers stresses that they are young.
It may take some time, but Sawyers is committed to getting Virgin Valley to the championship level to which he’s accustomed.
“I’m excited to be back in the district,” Saywers said. “I think there’s some excitement with what we’re doing.”