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July 29, 2017

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high school football:

Canyon Springs won’t dwell on close defeats of last season, loaded for another run


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Canyon Springs football players, from left, defensive back Raequan Bascombe, linebacker Isiah Carter, defensive lineman Rayshawn Henderson, running back Zaviontay Stevenson and defensive back A.J. Cooper.

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Hunkie Cooper, Canyon Springs head coach

Hunkie Cooper, Canyon Springs head coach, talks about the upcoming season.

Northeast League — 2013

Canyon Springs football players, from left, defensive back Raequan Bascombe, linebacker Isiah Carter, defensive lineman Rayshawn Henderson, running back Zaviontay Stevenson and defensive back A.J. Cooper.

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Nobody in Southern Nevada can attest to the difficulty of losing close games better than the Canyon Springs High football team.

Canyon Springs lost four games last season by 17 total points in the regular season, including two games on last-second field goals and a 10-0 loss in the Sunrise Region semifinals to state finalist Liberty.

Had the Pioneers been able to turn those close losses the other direction, they would have been undefeated entering the Sunrise Region championship game.

From there, who knows what could have happened.

Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper is making sure his players’ focus is strictly on making it happen in 2013, and not how close they were to breaking through last season. The Pioneers open the season at 7 p.m. Saturday against visiting Coronado.

“I like where we are,” Cooper said. “As a team, we have the right amount of seniors and young guys who are very talented.”

The Pioneers will go to the same formula that has brought them success over the past few years: a strong defense.

Nose tackle Rayshawn Henderson (5-foot-11, 285 pounds), whose nickname is “Worm” based on his ability to slither his way into backfields, is an All-City selection who is expected to do big things in the trenches.

“He has a John Randle motor,” Cooper said, comparing him to the Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer. “He’s just physical. He plays hard and plays through when he’s exhausted.”

In the secondary, the Pioneers return All-City selection Diamante Luna and Cooper’s son, A.J., to the mix, while Isiah Carter leads the linebacker corps. Cooper feels Carter could become the top linebacker in the Sunrise when it's all said and done.

“Our defense is talented,” Cooper said. “They’re efficient and play well together.”

Offensively, however, things may get tricky for Canyon Springs.

Last year, they played three quarterbacks trying to find the right signal caller to lead the offense. This year, they are still looking for someone to step up.

Then there’s the obvious hole left by the graduation of D.J. Pumphrey, who was named the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year. Pumphrey rushed for 1,666 yards with 22 touchdowns, and is playing at San Diego State.

“D.J. was a huge influence for Canyon Springs. He was the heart of the offense,” Luna said. “But we have a lot of other players ready to step up. Hopefully we put everyone in the right place to win some games and become a powerhouse team this year.””

Zaviontay Stevenson got to play a little bit last season as a sophomore when Pumphrey suffered an ankle injury and will have a chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013.

“Zaviontay Stevenson is a quality running back. He has great acceleration and runs the ball inside and outside,” Cooper said.

Cooper also expects Luna and A.J. Cooper to excel on the offensive side of the ball as well.

“It’s about getting that talent to gel together,” Cooper said.

If it does, then maybe the Pioneers will achieve their perfect season.

Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or mail to Follow Paul on Twitter at

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