Note: Monument Valley finished with a 3-8 overall record in 2010 and a 1-2 record in the 1A South Division. It lost to Rich in the first round of the 1A playoffs.
The main focus throughout the upcoming season for the Monument Valley Cougars is to become more well-rounded.
"Last year, we were doing pretty good on defense," said coach Powers Whiskers, "but as soon as (the team) picked up the offense, they never wanted to play defense anymore."
The Cougars' record suffered because of it. They gave up an average of 37 points per game a year ago, posting the overall worst defense in 1A with only six teams in the entire state giving up more points.
"We worked with our offense a lot last season, and we got better at it, but we were lacking in all the other areas," Whiskers said, adding that his roster was, and is again, full of underclassman. "This year, the key is hitting all three areas — offense, defense and special teams — everyday, not just one."
Back to fill the quarterback position is Lawrence Atene, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who suffered a significant shoulder injury in Monument Valley's final game last season. Also returning for the Cougars is Nolten Bowsley, a 6-foot sophomore who fills a position on the line on both sides of the ball.
"The incoming sophomores are eager to get back into it. They're going to be pretty good by their senior year," Whiskers said. "Bowsley is hard at work out there conditioning himself."
The high school, including the weight room, has been under construction throughout the summer, leaving the Cougars with limited resources for strength training and conditioning.
Highlighting the rest of the Monument Valley roster are Trevor Fowler, a senior receiver and safety, Anthony James, a junior receiver and cornerback, and Evan Chief, a senior lineman who also plays both ways.
"Last season was Anthony's first year to play in a game, so there was a great learning curve," Whiskers said. "And (Chief) never slowed down. He has a low center of gravity and is always there to make a tackle."
With less than a handful of seniors on the roster this season, Whiskers is putting a lot of responsibility on the younger team members.
"Our underclassmen are going to have to step up in order for us to have a chance," Whiskers said, also stating that injury prevention will be crucial, as it usually is for a school the size of Monument Valley. "We're going to be pretty young; most of the kids that played last year didn't have much experience. They have more of that this year, and we're looking to get better as the season goes on."
Monument Valley Cougars at a glance
Coach: Powers Whiskers is entering his second season as Monument Valley head coach after spending four years as the team's defensive coordinator. He is a graduate of San Juan High.
(5 returning starters; Spread offense)
Lawrence Atene will again direct the Cougar offense in their spread formation, and this year he'll do it with a year of experience to aid him. Bowsley and Chief will lead a stronger line while Fowler and James will be moving the ball down the field.
(5 returning starters)
This will be an area of much greater focus for Monument Valley this season, and it needs to be. Giving up 37 points a game rarely ever allows for a victory. Though the team is young, its players gained valuable experience a year ago — especially with most players playing both ways.
Coaches preseason Class 1A straw poll: Eighth
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Bottom Line: Defense wins games, and Monument Valley needs to remember that throughout the season. Without that change in focus, it could be another long, frustrating season. With it, the Cougars are bound to improve.
Aug. 19 — at Whitehorse, 7 p.m.
Aug. 27 — at Navajo Prep, N.M., 1 p.m.
Sept. 1 — NEWCOMB, N.M., 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Monticello, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — BYE
Sept. 23 — ROCK POINT, ARIZ., 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Milford, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — WHITEHORSE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — BYE