Note: Whitehorse finished with a 1-8 overall record in 2009 and a 0-3 record in 1A South region.
Young, but ready to rumble, the Whitehorse Raiders want to rebound from their one-win season last year to contend in each region game this season and hopefully make the state playoffs.
Whitehorse is counting on using its youth to rebuild a team that has had a tough time winning games the last few seasons. The Raiders faced injuries and grade issues last season, as well as just the difficulty of fielding a complete team at a small school.
"What hurts us a lot is when the seniors graduate — when you graduate six or seven for a team of our size — we barely have enough to have a team at the end of the season," Whitehorse coach Fernando Fonseca said. "The grades also hurt us. We're working with the students a lot on that this season. We want to make sure everyone has the grades to play."
The Raiders are planning to start at least half a dozen freshman and sophomores on each side of the field. Many of the sophomores acquired valuable experience playing as freshman last season.
Fonseca is particularly excited about the possibilities for sophomore running back/slot back Edgar Haskins. Haskins broke through last season as a key component in the Raiders offense and ended the season playing cornerback/linebacker on defense, as well.
"He's probably 135 pounds soaking wet, but he's got a good heart and he loves the game," Fonseca laughed. "When he gets knocked down, he gets right back up."
Brian Yazzie, a rare senior on the team this year, will return to quarterback the Raiders. Yazzie missed most of last season after getting injured when Whitehorse played Layton Christian in early October last year.
"He is back for us, which is a relief," Fonseca said of Yazzie. "With him there, at least we should be okay at the quarterback position."
Sophomore Tyrone Dee will return as offensive guard and defensive tackle to help plug holes on both sides of the line and senior Colten Lee will also provide valuable leadership for the Raiders on both sides of the ball. Lee is a running back on offense and a defensive tackle.
"Colten is a good player all-around, one of those Ironman football guys," Fonseca said. "He doesn't come off the field unless it's halftime."
Most of the Raiders play both ways, but Fonseca considers it to be a bonus instead of a detriment for his team. With so many of his younger athletes having played on both sides of the ball last season, they gained valuable experience that will be needed since Whitehorse is fielding such a young group again this season.
"Most of the team will have at least one year experience and we'll be ready once we get into the main games," Fonseca said. "There are little obstacles here and there, but we'll get past them."
Whitehorse Raiders at a glance:
Coach: Fernando Fonseca is entering his third season as head coach at Whitehorse with a 4-11 record. This is Fonseca's first coaching experience at the high-school level. He grew up in Wexlaco, Texas and came to Montezuma Creek after serving in the military.
(8 returning starters. Double-slot offense)
Whitehorse will get welcome and needed leadership with the return of Yazzie to the quarterback position. They also have a talented back-up in sophomore Jones, who filled in as a freshman while Yazzie was out injured last season. Returning sophomore Mitchell will provide some size for the Raiders at fullback, while sophomore Dee will open up holes for the Whitehorse running game on the offensive line. Lee and Haskins will also provide sparks for the Raiders' running game.
(8 returning starters)
Whitehorse's defense will have to improve for the Raiders to have any success. The defense gave up an average of 45 points a game last season and it's virtually impossible to get wins that way. Lee and Dee will return to the tackle positions. Sophomore Sean Carter and Mitchell will also get some time at tackle, while Haskins will attempt to break up passes at cornerback.
Coaches preseason 1A South straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News 1A South prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: The Raiders are not going to be state title contenders this season. They want to build on last year and hopefully set the tone for their young team to continue to battle the next couple of seasons.
Aug. 20 – at Monument Valley, 7 p.m.
Aug. 27 – SHONTO PREP, ARIZ., 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 – NEWCOMB, N.M., 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 – DUCHESNE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 – at Milford, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 – LAYTON CHRISTIAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 – at Monticello, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 – at Rich, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 – MONUMENT VALLEY, 7 p.m.