High school football: Snow Canyon Warriors 2012 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

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Note: Snow Canyon finished with a 2-7 overall record and was sixth in Region 9 with a 1-5 record in 2011. It did not qualify for the playoffs.

Reflecting back on last season, coach Jay Graft said Snow Canyon was “a hair's breadth away from being an awfully good team.” Ultimately though, it lost four games by less than a touchdown and finished with a losing record for the fourth straight year.

The difference between another disappointing season this fall vs. competing for a playoff spot is all about attitude, according to Graft.

“The difference between (this team) and the other teams … they’re playing together. They like each other. Over the past few years, I think the kids thought they did, but I don’t know that they really gave their heart and soul to one another and hopefully that makes the difference for us this year,” said Graft.

He believes more than just Xs and Os were to blame for a five-game losing straight to end the season, including heart-breaking losses to Desert Hills (24-21) and Dixie (24-22).

“I really think it came down to them believing in what we were doing and believing in themselves and really battling and fighting for one another,” said Graft. “I’ll be honest: That’s really been the hard thing over the last five or six years is that right there — believing and fighting and competing on every single play.”

The big question this season in the uber-competitive Region 9 is how will Snow Canyon deal with the inevitable adversity?

Following season-opening losses the last two years, Graft is hoping an opener at 2A power San Juan helps the team build camaraderie and confidence right away. The seven-hour bus ride will be a great way for the team to bond right away.

Snow Canyon returns seven starters on offense this season and four on defense. Even though there aren’t really any superstars, Graft believes this year’s team is very solid.

“We’ve got pretty good team speed, and our overall strength and our experience is pretty good. We’ve just got to solidify those guys up front and if we do that I think we can be pretty good,” he said.

Snow Canyon needs to cut down on turnovers as well.

It threw five interceptions in a narrow loss to Desert Hills, and then in a 28-22 season-ending loss to Pine View it turned the ball over six times — three interceptions, three fumbles.

The coaching staff is hoping senior quarterback Mason Smith brings a bit more stability to the position.

“He’s not all-world and he’s not going to go on anybody’s D1 radar, but he’s a leader. He’s a tough kid. He’s mentally there and the kids respect him,” said Graft.

He also throws the football well, which should prevent opposing defense from putting eight guys in the box to stop what has the makings a formidable rushing attack. Mitchell Phillips is back after carrying the ball a team-high 130 times last year for 561 yards. Both fullbacks who blocked for him, Taylor Johanson and Brandon McFarland, are back as well.

“It all depends on what happens to us up front. If our line can get some solidified and stay on some things, then I think (we) can have a really good year running the football,” said Graft.

The coaching staff is confident in what returning starters Austin Best, Bowman Loo and Cesar Bautista bring to the trenches. It’s the other two positions that are raising the red flags right now.