Note: Whitehorse finished with a 1-7 overall record in 2013 and was fifth in 1A South with an 0-4 record. It did not qualify for the 1A playoffs.
Germany is a long, long way from Montezuma Creek, Utah, but new Whitehorse Raiders coach Alden Chee Jr. will be bringing that international influence to the gridiron this fall.
Chee spent his early years growing up on the East Coast but attended a military high school in Germany. It was there that he learned the game of football, and he wound up as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator a few years ago. Now he takes over a program that has won just one game over the past two seasons and hasn’t beaten a team from Utah since 2010.
For Chee, trying to build a solid foundation at Whitehorse is all about the fundamentals. When he became the offensive coordinator, he asked players what position they played and they responded readily. Digging a little further, however, he realized that many didn’t know how to play their position properly.
Since then, he has aimed to dedicate time with the offensive players, teaching them how to play their positions. As the head coach, Chee plans to do that with all his players on both sides of the ball.
“It comes back to teaching them the right techniques and the fundamentals,” he said. “They’ve gotten tougher and they’ve gotten more heart. They’ve actually enjoyed these last couple years. I’m just looking forward to a new good season being the head coach.”
In terms of personnel, Chee is expecting as many as eight returning starters on each side of the ball. Senior JR Todachinnie will lead the way on both offense and defense, and he’s a player Chee feels has what it takes to play at the junior college level when his time with the Raiders is over.
“I think he’s ready for that next level,” Chee said of the wide receiver/defensive back. “He’s really physical. He knows his position real well. He’s that type of guy that works hard.”
The question of who will get Todachinnie the ball is still in question. Junior Garrett Nez is 6-1 and has great poise delivering the ball in the pocket, but he has a young challenger on his tail. Deandre Nakai is just a freshman, but Chee has been impressed with what he’s seen from Nakai.
“I’ve seen him play at junior high and he has really good speed,” Chee said. “He knows how to scramble. He has the potential to take over even though he’s a freshman.”
Beyond Todachinnie on defense, Chee is anticipating that Daivik Mitchell will be a leader at linebacker in addition to his duties as kicker. Nez will play safety.
In addition to Mitchell on special teams, Dylan Lindsey will be the return specialist, and Chee is particularly excited to see what he’ll bring to the table in that role.
While Chee would like to see his team win every time it takes the field in 2014, he wants to use this season to start building a foundation for the program in hopes it can be more and more competitive as the years go on. To that end, he’s brought in assistant coaches who he feels will teach the game well and he’s been working with middle school coaches to start building more of a program that will feed Whitehorse as kids grow up.
“I’ve been working with them and really getting them on the same page on offense and defense,” he said of his work with his players thus far. “I’ve just been pushing them hard. They’re really excited for this year.”
Whitehorse Raiders at a glance
Coach: Alden Chee Jr. takes over the program after serving the last few years as offensive coordinator.
(8 returning starters; Multiple-formation offense)
Chee will be bringing back a bunch of players from a season ago, so experience will be on his side, although those players haven’t experienced a whole lot of winning. Leading the way will be wide receiver JR Todachinnie, who has been a starter since ninth grade. He should be aided by the fact that Chee won’t be running the wing-T full time. The quarterback battle is still going strong, with freshman Deandre Nakai right on the heels of junior Garrett Nez.
(8 returning starters)
Here too, Chee will have a good core of players who saw significant time a year ago. Along with Todachinnie and Nez in the secondary, linebacker Daivik Mitchell will be a leader of the unit.
Coaches preseason Region 1A South straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News Region 1A South prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: Chee has ambitions and plans to help Whitehorse move from the cellar to being more competitive, but that may still be a few years away. The fact that Chee is stressing the fundamentals with his team so much during the early days of his tenure may help the Raiders win a few games this season, but the talent isn’t there yet for Whitehorse to be a major factor in 1A.
Ryan McDonald is a former intern at LDS Church News. He is studying communication at the University of Utah, where he works as the sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org