Snow Canyon preview: Warriors hope to recapture magic

ST. GEORGE – It’s funny how something so great can turn into something bitter in time.

Snow Canyon fans can certainly take pride in how quickly the school became a football powerhouse after the school’s opening in 1994. Under Bill Jacobsen, the Warriors were in the state championship game in their second season and won it in their third (1996). SC won it again in 1999 and established a tradition as a football powerhouse with superb athletes and a yearly tradition of deep playoff runs.

That was then. Now, Snow Canyon is dealing with its third different head coach in six years and the fact that the Warriors haven’t made the playoffs since 2006.

New Snow Canyon head coach Marcus Matua addresses the media during the 3AA South region Media Day in Washington, Utah, Aug. 9, 2013. | Photo by Rachel Guymon, St. George News
New Snow Canyon head coach Marcus Matua addresses the media during the 3AA South region Media Day in Washington, Utah, Aug. 9, 2013. | Photo by Rachel Guymon, St. George News

The Warriors will enter the season with a new head football coach, Marcus Matua, who coached under the last two head coaches before taking a two-year sabbatical for academic advancement. He is joined by assistant head coach Jerry Tousa, who has over 35 years of coaching experience. Directing the offense and defense will be coordinators Burke Rigby, in his first year, and Mike Esplin, in his third year.

All of these guys are keenly aware of the past as they try to re-establish Snow Canyon football as a viable football power in Utah.

“We have a saying,” Matua said. “We want to ‘Respect the past, but build for the future.’ I know Coach Jacobsen and have tremendous respect for the traditions he set here. We will keep ‘Touch Gold’ forever. As far as pressure goes, I believe pressure comes to those who aren’t prepared. I believe we are prepared.”

Matua and his staff have certainly been working hard to get his team ready in what will be a brutal 3AA South Region. The Warriors had a winning record last year and had a good chance to make the playoffs after beating eventual state-champ Dixie. But a season-ending 30-13 loss to Pine View brought Warriors hopes crashing to the ground and left them locked out of the postseason for the sixth straight year.

So Snow Canyon faces a new season with a new coaching staff, virtually no returning starters and a schedule full of powerful foes. Is there hope for SC?

“We are at the bottom of the list and we understand that, but that’s not where we are going to stay,” Matua said. “People say to us ‘a couple of years,’ but why not right now? We plan to go to state and we plan to take state.”

The Warriors will utilize a double wing-shotgun offense, led by team captain Warner Rigby, a first-year starter at quarterback. t’s a system designed to take advantage of the athleticism of the quarterback and running backs.

“We plan to rely heavily on the run,” said Matua. “Warner has put in the work this off-season and is very good at directing the offense.”

Rigby will be joined in the backfield by three other newcomers at running back, seniors Cole Mooring at fullback, Connor Parry at halfback and Zach Kennedy at wingback.

The Warriors will deploy either a 4-3 or a 4-4 defense depending on the situation and personnel match-up.

Head Coach: Marcus Matua (1st year)
Last Season: 6-4, 3-3 in Region 9
Last Season PPG: 25.6; PAG: 22.0
Home Field: Warriors Stadium
Quarterbacks: Rigby, a senior, will call the signals. He just beat out junior Jacob Frei, who is athletic enough to find his way on the field in some capacity.
Running backs: Mooring, Parry and Kennedy are all athletic, but inexperienced.
Receivers: Starting at the tight end positions are Trevor Horlacher (Sr.) and Chance Thorkelson (Jr.).
Offensive line: Third-year senior starters Keaton Plant and team captain Bowman Loo will anchor the offensive line. The Warriors do not return many starters, but the learning curve may be less than most teams in that situation. “Many of our positions are being filled by first-year starters,” said Matua, “But those starters are athletic and most are seniors and juniors.”
Defensive line: The defensive line will start Joe Servati (a sophomore) and seniors Plant and Troy Behunin.
Linebackers: The linebacking corps will be led by returning leading tackler Horlacher. He will be joined by Brady Sergeant (Jr.) and seniors Cade Derrick and Kennedy. “Our linebackers are playmakers,” said Matua. “They have good recognition and quick flow to the spot.”
Defensive backs: In the backfield, the corner responsibilities will be handled by Richmond Anderson (Jr.) and Parry, while Rigby will start at the safety spot.
Special teams: Parry will also handle the punting duties. “Our placekicker position is still undecided,” said Matua. “There is a good battle at that position with some very talented players.”
Intangibles: There’s no doubt Snow Canyon has athletes. The Warriors have excelled at other boys sports in the past six years. Now it’s up to Matua and his staff to translate that athleticism into playoff teams on the gridiron. They’re saying all the right things, but a tough schedule that includes a trip to Copper Hills and the usual donnybrooks in southern Utah could make things tough for the Warriors. Matua did not take over a bad program. Rather, Snow Canyon is a good program that needs a little boost. Maybe the philosophical Matua is just the ticket.

Snow Canyon Schedule
(Non-league difficulty B)
8/23 San Juan at Snow Canyon
8/30 Snow Canyon @ Shadow Ridge, NV
9/06 bye
9/13 Pine View @ Snow Canyon
9/20 Snow Canyon @ Copper Hills
9/27 Snow Canyon @ Payson
10/04 Snow Canyon @ Hurricane
10/10 Cedar @ Snow Canyon
10/16 Desert Hills @ Snow Canyon
10/25 Snow Canyon @ Dixie

2013 3AA South Region Media prediction:
Rank  Team (1st vts)   total points

1. Desert Hills (4)   51 points
2. Pine View (1)  44 points
3. Hurricane (2) 41 points
4. Dixie (1)  38 points
5. Snow Canyon    18 points
6. Cedar    16 points
7. Payson    15 points

* Editor’s note: This week the STGNews sports department previews the new 3AA South Region. Preview schedule: Monday — Cedar and Payson; Tuesday — Snow Canyon and Pine View; Wednesday — Dixie and Hurricane; Thursday — Desert Hills; Friday — Gameday preview caps.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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