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High school football: Snow Canyon Warriors 2009 preview

ST. GEORGE — Jay Graft is back coaching at the school that fired him five years ago.

Some wonder why he's being given another chance as Snow Canyon's head football coach if things didn't work out during his previous stint from 2002 to 2004. Graft understands those concerns, but he also doesn't believe things weren't as bad as they seemed the first go around.

He's been a teacher at Snow Canyon ever since he was fired as head coach, and even served as an assistant coach in the two years after his dismissal.

Graft said it was painful to watch a once proud program fall into disarray the past two seasons, but it's why he was so eager to get back on the sideline.

"We just all felt like we don't want to leave it like this," said Graft, whose been a teacher at Snow Canyon every year but one since the school opened.

The Warriors were brutal in 2008 finishing with a 2-7 record despite the talents of Adam Timo in the backfield. In coach Rick Secrist's first of two disappointing seasons in 2007 Snow Canyon finished 5-4 but missed the playoffs.

"As far as the community goes they expect to win and they've been used to winning, and I think that bothered them the last couple of years," said Graft.

In an effort to get the program back on track Graft is doing away with the spread offense and reverting to a more traditional offense. He said they'll run the football a lot more, while also trying to remain unpredictable by throwing it out of play action and roll outs.

With a completely overhauled offensive and defensive philosophy, Graft believe the first three games are going to be very important. A fair amount of the returning starters are changing positions this year, and Graft said those early games will help the coaching staff decide if they've put people in the right spots.

Two positions in particular, running back and defensive line, are the most up in the air.

With the regular season fast approaching, Snow Canyon is prepared to spread the ball between three tailbacks — Sharrod Smith, Nick Bott and Chase Robinson — and two fullbacks — Brett Schiller and Jake Jorgenson.

"You'll see about all of them playing early on especially, and then we'll go from there," said Graft, who hopes one or two of the players emerge as go-to ball carriers.

Defensively, Graft believes in speed on the line even at the sacrifice of size. He has a lot of kids vying for playing time at that position, but he's still not sure how things will play out over the coming weeks.

Austin Larsen is a returning part-time starter at quarterback having shared the duty with Timo last year. From an outsiders point of view, Graft believes the Warriors were better when Larsen was taking the snaps which is why he's encouraged about Larsen's potential this season.

Overall, the entire Snow Canyon team is encouraged about a bounce back year following two straight years of missing the playoffs.

Snow Canyon Warriors at a glance

Coach: Jay Graft is in his 1st year of his second stint with Snow Canyon. His overall head coaching record in four years is 24-17.

Key Players: Chad Gough and Adam Bishop will anchor an experienced offensive line that Austin Larsen has the potential to shine behind at quarterback. Tyler Miller is a talented tight end as well.

Strengths: With upwards of 140 kids coming out this year, depth could be a strength for the Warriors. Offensively the team has some key returning starters on the line and several quality options in the backfield. Another plus is at wide receiver. With the previous coaching regime using the spread offense in 2007 and 2008, there's no shortage of players who can run routs and catch the football.

Concerns: How supportive will the community be of coach Graft? Everyone is saying the right things but will people panic if the rebuilding process takes a bit longer? On the field, there's some concern defensively with unproven players all the way across the line.

Last year: 2-7, didn't make the playoffs.

Predicted Region 9 (4A) finish: Third.

Postseason possibilities: Even if Snow Canyon turns things around, it's hard to imagine them finishing higher than Dixie and Pine View in the standings. That would mean a third straight year missing the playoffs.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 — EAST, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 — at Las Vegas, 8 p.m.

Sept. 11 — at Canyon View, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — at Hurricane, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — CEDAR, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 — DESERT HILLS, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 — at Dixie, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — PINE VIEW, 7 p.m.