ST. GEORGE — Mike Esplin knows Snow Canyon football.
As a former SC all-state cornerback and a member of the 1996 state championship team, the 36-year-old Esplin, who was named earlier this week as the new head coach for the Warriors, practically bleeds green and gold.
“I’ve been very lucky to be a part of Snow Canyon football and its tradition most of my life,” Esplin said. “I was fortunate enough to play for Coach Jake (Bill Jacobsen) and to be around Coach (Jay) Graft and (Wane) Kittrell and I have seen and know what this program was and how it was run.”
Esplin, who also played football at Dixie College (when it was a junior college), graduated from the University of Utah. He has been the defensive coordinator under coach Marcus Matua the past three seasons.
“I do want to bring back that rich tradition, but at the same time, I want to continue what Coach Matua has begun, an organization that is building and growing,” Esplin said. “We are heading in the right direction.”
Last season, Snow Canyon football finished tied for fifth in the 3AA South, but pulled off a pair of impressive road wins in the playoffs, defeating Stansbury 48-28 and then stunning Desert Hills 17-13 with a touchdown in the game’s closing seconds. Eventual state champion Logan eliminated the Warriors in the semifinals.
With Esplin as defensive coordinator, the Warriors allowed 22.7 points per game. Snow Canyon had one shutout and allowed opponents fewer than 14 point five times in 2015. Against rival Pine View, the Warriors held the Panthers scoreless until the third overtime, with PV eventually winning 8-6.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years, including how to flat out grind and work harder than everyone else,” Esplin said. “We won’t have to change much as Matua has put us in a great place. And I already have a lot of trust in offensive coordinator Tim Nowatzke. I believe in him.”
Esplin said there is definitely an expectation to win at Snow Canyon, especially given the program’s past successes. Snow Canyon opened in 1994 and was immediately competitive under Jacobsen. The Warriors went undefeated until a championship-game loss to Delta in 1995, when Eplin was a sophomore.
Esplin’s junior year was 1996-97 and he started at cornerback on SC’s state championship team that got its revenge on Delta and completed a perfect season. Esplin was an all-state corner his senior year.
“The Snow Canyon community is passionate about its sports and the fans and parents really don’t like not being on top,” Esplin said. “They love their kids and have a passion for athletics and we plan on using that passion to get us back where we feel like we belong.”
Esplin was an assistant coach at Highland High School for three years before returning to southern Utah. He helped coach the Rams to the 2010 4A state championship under head coach Brody Benson.
“I’ve coached with and played for some great coaches, including my dad, Thomas,” Esplin said. “I’ve learned a little or a lot from each one and I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned.”
Esplin is married and he and his wife Kassie have two sons: Brooks, 11, and Cael, 8; and one daughter, Anistyn, 1.
Along with an assortment of camps and workouts over the summer, Snow Canyon officially begins the Mike Esplin era in mid-August.
Snow Canyon also hired a new boys basketball coach this week. Jamison Sorenson, a graduate of Hurricane High in the early 2000s, will take over the program once he completes his teaching obligations at a school in California. Sorenson takes over for retired coach James Brown, who spent 14 years as SC’s head coach, averaging more than 12 wins per season. Brown led the Warriors to the 2002 3A state championship.
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