The talent has always been here at Snow Canyon. It’s just a matter of them being held accountable instead of blaming everyone else, and then just going out there and fulfilling their responsibilities. —Marcus Matua, Snow Canyon head football coach
ST. GEORGE — Snow Canyon’s football team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in six years, which is really quite astonishing.
There’s been plenty of athletic talent at the school during that stretch, but for a variety of reasons it's never led to sustained success on the football field.
That was very evident last season.
In Week 9 of the regular season, the Warriors impressively beat eventual 3A state champion Dixie 28-21 and held eventual 3A MVP Blake Barney in check. During other key Region 9 games, however, Snow Canyon lost to Hurricane 38-7, Desert Hills 42-0 and Pine View 30-13 and missed the playoffs.
Marcus Matua hopes to change all that.
An assistant at Snow Canyon from 2008 to 2010, the Kearns High graduate takes over as head coach this season and has lofty ambitions for turning things around.
“The talent has always been here at Snow Canyon. It’s just a matter of them being held accountable instead of blaming everyone else, and then just going out there and fulfilling their responsibilities,” said Matua.
Matua believes attitude is everything, something he’s trying to instill in his players with the “Warriors’ Code.” The premise is to encourage his players to have the will, desire and dedication to be better in everything they do, which he believes is possible with the right attitude.
So far the results have been great. Participation numbers are up at practice each day, which includes some familiar faces who elected not to play the past couple of years.
With the revamped 3AA South region expected to be as tough as ever, Snow Canyon can use all the personnel it can get to snap its six-year playoff drought.
“We know that every Region 9 game we’re in is going to be a dogfight. We know every team we face is going to be tough,” said Matua.
Snow Canyon’s new coach is changing offenses to help the program be more competitive every Friday night. His team will run the double wing-T out of a shotgun formation, and he believes he has the weapons to do so.
He believes his team has the weapons to be a good passing team too, but that’s not the focus heading into preseason games against San Juan and Shadow Ridge, Nev., during the first two weeks of the season.
“We have the talent to (throw the ball), but at this time we’re going to be focused on the run — establish the run game and then open everything up from there,” said Matua.
Whatever Snow Canyon does, senior Trevor Horlacher will be at the center of it all. Even though he’s listed as a tight end on the roster, his real position according to Matua is "OW" — offensive weapon. He can play halfback, fullback or quarterback if necessary, and the coaching staff will try and get the ball in his hands as often as possible.
Horlacher will also anchor the defense at linebacker. Last season he led the team in tackles with 109.
While Horlacher’s spot in the starting lineup each Friday night seems secure, realistically Matua said every player needs to earn their spot every weekend. He plans on holding players accountable for their actions each week, which he believes will help create ownership in the program among the players and a sense of urgency necessary to win games in Region 9.
Snow Canyon Warriors at a glance
Coach: Marcus Matua is entering his first season as Snow Canyon's head coach after serving as an assistant from 2008 to 2010. He’s a graduate of Kearns High School.
(3 returning starters; double wing-T offense)
In making the switch to a new offense, Snow Canyon will lean on the experience of returning offensive line starters Bowman Loo and Keaton Plant. After that, Trevor Horlacher is the only starter with much experience. Warner Rigby takes over at QB for the Warriors, and he’s proved to be a great run threat and great leader so far this summer. Zach Kennedy and Connor Parry will be the primary running backs heading into the season, while Cole Mooring and Kade Derrick will split reps at fullback. Most of these players have enjoyed success in little league football, and Matua doesn’t see any reason why it can’t translate to success at the high school level with hard work.
(3 returning starters)
Horlacher will anchor a 4-4 defense at outside linebacker, while Brady Sargent will be key as well defensively as he makes the switch from defensive end to middle linebacker. Loo, Nate Gottfredson and Tom Jensen will rotate in at defensive end, and the addition of Gottfredson and Jensen is a huge boost as neither played football the past two years. Gottfredson was a first-team all-state basketball player last season, and at 6 foot 7 he’ll be a tremendous presence on the edge defensively. Plant will be a key starter at defensive end. Rigby will be a two-way starter as he roams the field at safety, while Parry and Richmond Anderson will be starting cornerbacks.
Coaches preseason 3AA South straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News 3AA South prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: Last season wasn’t a total disaster by any means for Snow Canyon. After all, it won six games and beat eventual 3A state champion Dixie in the regular season. It just didn’t show up defensively in big games against Hurricane, Desert Hills and Pine View, and missed the playoffs as a result. If the Warriors hope to make any kind of noise this season in the new 3AA South region, they must show up defensively. Only time will tell if the players have bought into the philosophies of their new coach.
Snow Canyon coaching history
2013 — Marcus Matua
2009-2012 — Jay Graft (14-23)
2007-2008 — Rick Secrist (10-17)
2005-2006 — Bill Jacobsen (14-9)
2002-2004 — Jay Graft (19-13)
2000-2001 — Wane Kittrell (13-8)
1994-1999 — Bill Jacobsen (53-13)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2008 — Adam Timo, RB
2006 — Dalton Groskruetz, WR
2006 — Kason Gubler, OL
2006 — Jared Miller, DL
2004 — Kyle Coop, RB
2003 — Brock Sargent, DL
Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps