Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The Silverado High football program typically isn’t mentioned as one of the teams to beat in the Sunrise Region.
But Silverado could have the players to make some noise this fall. When practices across Southern Nevada officially started this week, Silverado’s field was packed with some new faces, including a handful of linemen who could be difference-makers.
“We’ve never been this big,” Silverado coach Andy Ostolaza said.
Justin Polu (6-foot-4, 295 pounds), a junior transfer from nearby Liberty, will lead the line on both sides of the ball. This month, he was offered a scholarship by Idaho — the first of what could be double-digit offers.
Freshman Tavita Moe (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) will start immediately, playing alongside sophomore Saleilu (Boi) Vili (6-foot-1, 345 pounds), senior Nick Guzman (5-foot-11, 285 pounds) and junior Mitchell Kissam (6-foot-4, 305 pounds). Most of the linemen will also play on defense, which includes defensive end Billy Danford (6-foot-3, 315 pounds).
“We can be successful this year. We definitely got stronger,” Polu said. “We just have to get faster when moving off the ball.”
Silverado relies on its running game more than most teams in the Las Vegas area, meaning the new-and-improved line could propel the team to greater heights. Last year, Silverado took fourth in the Northeast and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
But at camp this summer in Utah, Silverado frequently pushed teams around in the run game. Silverado also has two capable blocking tight ends in Austin Hunt (6-foot-6, 225 pounds), who is arguably the team’s best all-around player, and Cheyenne transfer Rohan Walters (6-foot-5, 295 pounds). Walters, a senior who is eligible for the first time, will be more of a force at defensive end.
Silverado also has a bulldozer at fullback in Dallen Dunford (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) and a capable passer in quarterback Armani Jones-Sailor. Ostolaza is so impressed with Jones-Sailor and confident with Hunt and the other pass catchers that he thinks they’ll achieve more balance offensively.
Silverado isn’t the only underachieving team from last season capable of a turnaround in 2013. Here are four others:
This Legacy player could be a force on both sides of the ball
Casey Hughes might be the best non-Bishop Gorman High player in the Southwest League, if not the Sunset Region. The Legacy running back is also one of the top track sprinters in town, and his elite-level speed makes him a threat to score each time he touches the ball.
He’ll give the Longhorns an distinct advantage each Friday night — on both sides of the ball.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, who has been timed at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is being recruited at safety. He has scholarship offers from UNLV, Army and Utah.
The Southwest League was a two-team race last season with state champion Gorman and Centennial, which has playoff wins in the past four seasons. But with Centennial losing most of its team to graduation, it’s not too far-fetched to pencil in Legacy as the No. 2 seed from the Southwest in the playoffs.
That would give them a home playoff game and a likely spot in the regional semifinals.
Legacy, which won just four games last season, is never a pushover because it has athletes at every position.
Defensively, linebacker Josh Phillips (5-foot-11, 220 pounds), defensive lineman Zach Lugris (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and defensive back Devin Williams (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) are veterans expected to keep opponents in check. With Williams at defensive back and Hughes at safety, you could easily argue Legacy has one of the area’s best secondaries.
No reason Desert Pines shouldn’t challenge for state
Desert Pines was supposed to control the new Division I-A last season.
A respectable team in the large-school classification, the Jags dropped down to the lower league with realignment in 2012 and had the athletes to run the table.
Then, the games started.
Desert Pines went 5-5 overall, was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by a school without a playoff victory in more than 15 years of existence, and lost a league game to Boulder City.
Moapa Valley, which has reached the state championship game in eight of the past nine seasons, will also be the team to beat in Desert Pines’ Sunrise Division. But Desert Pines shouldn’t be far behind, especially with a trio of seniors lining up offensively.
Wide receiver Tim Hough (6-foot, 175 pounds) might be the best in the state regardless of classification, and running backs Eric Wilkes and Malik Davis are seasoned ball-carriers capable of being great.
Desert Pines was one of the best teams this summer in UNLV’s 7-on-7 passing league. Although that event didn’t include linemen, and Moapa Valley will be better up front, it could be a sign of things to come in the fall. Hough, Wilkes and Davis are that dangerous.
Why not Faith Lutheran?
Cheyenne graduated the best running back and defender in Division I-A from last season.
Mojave appears to be a program on the rise after winning a playoff game last year but is far from a sure thing to run the table in Sunset Division games.
All six league teams have a chance of making the playoffs and winning the league title. Faith Lutheran, which finished in third last year, could take advantage of that parity.
First-year coach Vernon Fox has his players believing they will contend for a league title. More important, he plans on running the ball, bringing balance to the Crusaders' pass-happy offense.
Keenan Smith (5-foot-7, 175 pounds) has emerged as one of Faith’s top threats in the running game, and guard Frank Neuhauser (6-foot-6, 335 pounds) will have a size advantage each week. Faith will still air it out with Vinny DeGeorge as the No. 1 wide receiver.
Defensively, linebacker Danny Otuwa (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and defensive end Hayden Solis (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) will lead the way. Solis, a three-year varsity performer, also plays tight end.
Don’t be surprised if Faith Lutheran is playing meaningful games late in the season.
From one win to the playoffs for Sierra Vista
Sierra Vista has just five wins over the past three seasons, including winning just one game each in 2012 and 2010.
This year could be different, especially when considering the parity in the Northwest League.
Sierra Vista is led by senior D.J. Lanshaul at wide receiver and cornerback, Deon Daswell and Caleb Stiles on the line, and junior running back Maliek Broady.