Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 | 1:33 a.m.
Prep Sports Now returns from hibernation just in time for football season. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go through every league and discuss every team in town, giving predictions along and players to watch along the way.
The 2012 season was a coming out party for the Mojave High football team.
The Rattlers made the postseason for just the second time in the school’s near two decades of existence and was able to capture the first playoff win in program history.
“It meant a lot getting to playoffs and overcoming the season prior to it. It meant that the turnaround school wasn’t just education wise, but athletic wise,” Mojave coach Joe Delgado said.
Delgado was hired as part of the turnaround project in 2011, when Mojave was one of three underachieving high schools in the Clark County School District that received federal money to help upgrade facilities and resources with the goal of improving test scores and graduation rates.
The transition is noticeable with the football team. The difference between 2012 and 2011 when the Rattlers were 2-7 is obvious to Delgado: “Eligibility to be honest,” he said.
In 2011, the Rattlers had 20 players ineligible at one time or another, meaning the team’s depth was cut drastically, the coach said. Without strong player numbers, competing at a high level would be difficult.
Last year, they only suffered one casualty to grades, taking advantage of a “Rattler Period” where students can start their homework and receive assistance from teachers before heading home or to practice.
As for what it will take on the field to take the next step and compete for a state championship, Delgado is keying on penalties.
Last season, the Rattlers averaged close to 12 penalties a game with most of them, Delgado estimates, coming before the snap.
“We have to be more disciplined,” he said. “If we slow down and be more patient, that will help.”
The Rattlers also made it a point to get into the weight room, wasting little time after the season ended to start working.
“We ended our season and got into the weight room the following month,” Delgado said. “Hopefully we’re stronger and faster.”
On a team loaded with underclassmen at key positions, seniors Lorenzo Guerrero and DeAndre Armstrong will be counted on for leadership and experience.
Junior quarterback Zack Arave will man the offense at quarterback, while fellow juniors Ty Flanagan at running back and Marcus Parker are also slated to make a difference. Flanagan is one of the area’s top juniors.
With all the pieces on the field and off addressed, Delgado is expecting his team to take the next step and carve its place among the state’s best — alongside perennial powers such Moapa Valley and Truckee (Calif.). Moapa Valley has played in eight of the last nine state championship games and beat Mojave in last year’s semifinals; Truckee has won the past four state titles.
“We want to be one of the dynasties as Moapa and Truckee are,” Delgado said. “They’re great football teams, and I’m sure they’re good. … But as long we keep kids in the program and eligible, we’ll be right there.”