ST. GEORGE — The football team at Snow Canyon High School can’t wait to play its first game of the 2021 season.
After last year’s campaign was disrupted due to COVID-19, the Warriors have been waiting a long time to get back to normal life on the gridiron. At practice on the Snow Canyon field on Wednesday, Warriors head coach Mike Esplin talked to St. George News about the upcoming season.
“We’ve actually felt blessed to be able to practice, because we got some perspective last year about not being able to do any prep,” Esplin said. “We have more first-time starters this year than we have had for three years, so it’s been good for us.”
In the 4A quarterfinals last year, Snow Canyon rallied for a thrilling 20-19 win over Stansbury before falling in the semifinals 48-7 against Pine View. The Warriors finished with an overall record of 10-2.
Like most coaches in the region, Esplin said he expects Pine View to be the team to beat again this season.
“Pine View comes back obviously with the most known names,” Esplin said. “They have an experienced coaching staff and everyone expects them to do really well.”
He added, however, that nothing is guaranteed in a competitive region that has retained all of its local rivalries even if it has a new name.
“Every week in this region, whether they call it Region 10 or Region 9, you better come ready to play,” Esplin said. “The lowest seed can beat the top seed if you take it for granted. So I don’t think anything will change as far as competition.”
Watching as his offense went through practice, Esplin talked about what to expect from the Warriors on that side of the ball.
“We’ve got a new junior quarterback, Hunter Johnson, that’s been working with our offense and our coaches really since the fifth grade,” Esplin said. “This is his first varsity test, so he’s going to be fun to watch.”
The coach said the Warriors will have a solid wide receiving core with returning players Jordan Wade, Jake Hill and Brooks Esplin. Snow Canyon’s lone returning lineman is Frutuoso Alejos.
“We call him Fruit,” Esplin said. “He’ll have to be big for us.”
On defense, linebacker and captain Drake Kelly is expected to be a playmaker and senior Landon Robinson will put in his first year as a starting linebacker.
Both units will be bolstered by two-way starters Will Warner and Logan Mendenhall, who bring experience and ability to the outside positions.
“We’ll have three 6-foot-3 or bigger receivers, so we look forward to maybe having some bigger, 40-plus-yard catches from those guys, maybe some explosion,” Esplin said.
Snow Canyon opens at home Friday night against non-region opponent Cyprus, which the Warriors handled 42-0 last year.
“I think they’re going to come out strong,” Esplin said. “I think we’ve got to come out and really establish dominance kind of from the get go. We’re really excited to see what’s going to happen in a real test. We’re sick of banging on each other.”
Most of all, the coach is excited to have two home games to start the season.
“It’ll be good for the community, good for the student body,” Esplin said.
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