I’m optimistic a little bit, I’m hoping to win four or five games this season. They’re highly motivated, they want to win some games this year. —Whitehorse coach Collin Jackson
Note: Whitehorse finished with an 0-7 overall record in 2012 and fifth in 1A South with a 0-4 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
Collin Jackson knows what it’s like to have his community rally around the football team. Back when he was a senior at Whitehorse High School in 1989, the Raiders were a strong football program and the fans flocked to see the action on Fridays.
“We were pretty good back then, and I want to bring that atmosphere back down to this area,” said Jackson, whose team went 9-3 his senior year. “When I played back then, we had a big following, the community was behind us, and I want to get back to that level.”
Jackson’s first year as head coach last season was a struggle as the Raiders posted an 0-7 record, but he believes things are looking up with 20 players on the team this season.
“I’m optimistic a little bit, I’m hoping to win four or five games this season,” said Jackson. “They’re highly motivated, they want to win some games this year.”
Whitehorse hasn’t won four games in more than a decade, but with five returning starters on each side of the ball and a stronger offensive line this season, anything is possible.
The program will always be a bit overmatched against fellow Utah schools, but non-region games against out-of-state teams like Fort Wingate, N.M., Shiprock Northwest, N.M., and Red Mesa, Ariz., will be the best opportunities for the Raiders to try and win a few games.
Jackson is even optimistic his team can compete with Monument Valley in the regular-season finale on Oct. 25.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the optimism is in the trenches.
“Last season we had a very small line and you can’t do much if your line is not big and strong. This season we have bigger players and they’re willing to improve the line play,” said Jackson.
Defensively, Jackson believes he has a collection of players who are willing to get after it. When he was first hired prior to the 2012 season, Jackson discovered that tackling drills and hitting drills weren’t worked on much prior to his arrival. It’s been a big area of focus since his arrival, and this year’s team likes to hit.
Whitehorse Raiders at a glance
Coach: Collin Jackson is entering his second year as head coach at his alma mater.
(5 returning starters; wing-T and multiple formations)
With a bigger offensive line and senior Cedale Armstrong back at quarterback, Whitehorse should score more than four touchdowns this season. Two other players the offense will lean heavily on are junior fullback Daivik Mitchell and sophomore tight end Garrett Nez. Mitchell is a strong, powerful back who can carry the load offensively if he gets help from his line. Junior receiver JR Todachinnie could have a strong year as well.
(5 returning starters)
Coach Jackson is hoping that the extra time spent on tackling drills will pay off throughout the season. Mitchell is a returning starter at inside linebacker, and senior Konami Mike is also expected to be a key contributor at linebacker. Armstrong is a returning starter at free safety, while junior Tyrone Chili will anchor the defensive line.
Coaches' preseason 1A South straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News 1A South prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: Many programs are defined by playoff success, but things are a bit different down at Whitehorse. Jackson is trying to instill a strong work ethic in his players, and hopes the offensive and defensive execution improves as a result. If the victories follow suit, that’s a bonus, because with only 20 players the Raiders will definitely be the underdog every time they step on the field.
Whitehorse coaching history
2012-current — Collin Jackson (0-7)
2008-11 — Fernando Fonseca (7-26)
2004-07 — Lance Knight (6-27)
1993-2003 — Marvin Johnson (40-38)
1992 — Eldon Randall (5-5)
1991 — Mark Courtney (1-8)
1988-90 — Eldon Randall (21-12)
1985-87 — Paul Nihipali (3-20)
1983-84 — Hank Nawahine (16-5)
1980-82 — Brian McAllister (4-8)
1979 — Unknown (0-8)
Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps