Region 9 football: Experienced Snow Canyon Warriors look to restore glory, win the close games

ST. GEORGE – Snow Canyon’s football program is not young anymore. In fact, coach Mike Esplin is a former player for the Warriors back in the day.

And one thing Esplin remembers is that everyone in the state used to respect, maybe even fear the Warriors.

“Snow Canyon, when I was coming through and playing, we expected to win every game that we played and generally we did,” he said.

It’s not that way anymore. Snow Canyon ended up just 3-7 in 2016, losing games it could have or maybe should have won. The Warriors lost by two to Uintah, by six to Hurricane, by six to Pine View and by 14 to Desert Hills.

Snow Canyon head coach Mike Esplin, Region 9 Media Day, High School Football, St. George, UT, Aug. 7, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Those teams know how to win and expect to win,” Esplin said. “We’ve been going through a fairly long process to change the culture, but I believe and our guys believe that we’re in that class and we’re going to compete and we just need to finish games.”

Esplin also cited the season-ending loss to Ridgeline, a 26-0 shutout, as something that left a bitter taste in he and his players’ mouths.

“We come back with a lot of experience, which is always a calm feeling for a coach,” he said. “We have six or seven guys on both sides of the ball and a big senior class. We ended our season last year in a really bad loss to (Ridgeline), so we’re excited to play them early in the season.”

Austin Staheli has been named as the starting quarterback for the Warriors (beating out Matt Kitchen), and he’ll have plenty of options when he goes back to pass. Snow Canyon returns a whole bevy of wide receivers, including last season’s top two targets, Zack Nowatzke and Brooks Sampson. Also back are receivers Tae Washington and Seth Smith, plus linemen David Park and Ti Kanosh.

Snow Canyon vs. Carbon, Football, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Although there are a couple of holes to fill on offense, Esplin said he’s happy with the prospects on that side of the ball. Right now, the running back spot is a wide open competition.

As for the defense, well that may be where the Warriors really excel.

Anchored by man-child Jayden Lacayo, the SC D is fearsome – and under new leadership. Vince Tauanuu is the new defensive coordinator for Snow Canyon, moving to southern Utah after coordinating Alta’s defense in the past. Tauanuu has a lot to work with, with seven returning starters, including Lacayo, Spencer Snow and David Dillard on the line.

“I’ve always been told by my Dad since I was five-years-old that the gym is where it’s at,” Lacayo said. “We’ve worked really hard in the weight room. I really believe that if you can be successful in the weight room, you’re going to be successful on the field.”

Snow Canyon’s Andy Day has translated his love for rugby into a budding football career | File photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Behind that stout D-line will be returning linebackers Alex Kennedy and Miles Reynolds. One of their biggest jobs will be to fill the void left with the graduation of 2016 leading tackler Britton Webster.

The secondary also has experience, with Smith and Wyatt Parry manning the safety spots.

And one area where Snow Canyon should be strong is special teams, with kicker Andy Day already garnering college scouts’ attention.

“Andy Day is really, really good,” Esplin said. “He’s the best kicker I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached some (college kickers). Andy is poised to be a Division I guy.”

Snow Canyon opens the season with three straight home games starting with Friday’s battle vs. Uintah. The Warriors then face Ridgeline on Aug. 25 and Las Vegas on Sept. 1. Region play begins for the Warriors on Sept. 8 with a road trip to Dixie. SCHS’s bye is Sept. 22.

Snow Canyon Warriors
Coach Mike Esplin

2016 Results (3-7, 1-4)
Uintah 25, Snow Canyon 23
Shelley (Idaho) 27, Snow Canyon 17
Snow Canyon 51, Carbon 7
Snow Canyon 48, Ogden 20
Hurricane 22, Snow Canyon 16
Pine View 13, Snow Canyon 7
Snow Canyon 17, Cedar 14
Dixie 48, Snow Canyon 21
Desert Hills 28, Snow Canyon 14
Ridgeline 26, Snow Canyon 0

2017 schedule (home games bolded)
Aug. 18 – vs. Uintah
Aug. 25 – vs. Ridgeline
Sept. 1 – vs. Las Vegas
Sept. 8 – at Dixie
Sept. 15 – vs. Pine View
Sept. 22 – bye
Sept. 29 – vs. Cedar
Oct. 5 – at Canyon View
Oct. 11 – at Hurricane
Oct. 19 – vs. Desert Hills

Returning starters: Offense 7, defense 8

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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