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High school football: Snow Canyon Warriors 2018 preview

Note: Snow Canyon finished with a 6-3 overall record in 2017 and was tied for fourth in Region 9 with a 3-3 record. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.

Snow Canyon 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

ST. GEORGE — Coming off a 6-3 season in which it missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014, Snow Canyon football head coach Mike Esplin is optimistic about the 2018 campaign.

“The biggest thing that we talk about is the process. We always have a goal of wanting to win a region championship, but that’s kind of the end goal. We feel like if we can win a region championship down here, we’ll be in a position to compete at the state level, but we just want to compete, play every down with our very best effort,” Esplin said.

Snow Canyon will have to replace its quarterback from 2017, Austin Staheli, who threw 13 touchdown passes and rushed for two more. Competing for the quarterback job will be Jase Mendenhall and Landon Frei.

Powering the charge at running back is Ryan Bethers, who will replace Toshfatafehi Wright, who rushed for 10 touchdowns last year. Bethers and Mendenhall combined for 377 rushing yards in 2017.

Leading the defense is linebacker Miles Reynolds, who racked up 84 tackles in 2017, and is on track to be one of the best linebackers to come through Snow Canyon. Outside of Miles, only two starters from last year’s defense (Tui Kanosh and Brock Nowatzke) are back for 2018.

The Warriors have a difficult road ahead, playing in a tough Region 9 that features Dixie, Desert Hills and Pine View, but Esplin believes that his team will surprise people.

Snow Canyon Warriors at a glance

Coach: Mike Esplin is in his third year as head coach at Snow Canyon. He is a graduate of Snow Canyon High School, Dixie State and the University of Utah.

Snow Canyon Offensive Snapshot

2017 offensive production: 27.6 ppg (11th in 4A)

  • 5 returning starters
  • Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

  • Ryan Bethers: In 2017, Bethers was the third-leading rusher for Snow Canyon, rushing for 153 yards on 28 carries and scoring three touchdowns. Bethers seems to be the leading candidate to get the most touches at running back this season.
  • Jase Mendenhall: Mendenhall is in the running to be the starting quarterback for the Warriors. A season ago, Mendenhall was the second-leading rusher for Snow Canyon.

Returning offensive starters

Offensive newcomers to watch

Esplin’s comments on running back Ryan Bethers:

“We’ve got Ryan Bethers, who started for us some last year, as a sophomore, that will be a junior, that we’re excited about. Explosive runner, a little bit quicker than we’ve had in a while, and still has enough muscle and power to do the things we need him to in between the tackles, but we’re excited about that position.”

Esplin’s comments on quarterbacks:

“We’ve got two competing. Really, what we’re trying to figure out is what’s going to be best for our team. Both guys who are competing for (starting) quarterback are athletic and can play other positions, so it’s every day at practice, and individuals and 7-on-7s and team, when we get a chance to do that, we just had a chance to do that.”

“We’ve got a senior who started at slot for us last year, Jase Mendenhall, that’s repping quarterback and slot, he’s a dual-threat quarterback. We have a sophomore, Landon Frei, who is a skilled quarterback but also athletic, who’s been repping some slot with us. Those two, we’re going to continue to look at them and just try and figure out which piece fits best where until we get in-season.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

“I think we want to have enough balance, as far as running and passing, that whatever the defense gives us, we can exploit the holes. We want to be physical on both sides of the ball, we probably talk about that the most, especially offensive line. We feel like if we have offensive linemen that are physical and get off the ball and are powerful, then we have a pretty good chance offensively to do what we want to do, whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball. No stupid mistakes, no false starts or mental mistakes that are going to cost us penalties.”

Snow Canyon Defensive Snapshot

2017 defensive production: 16.2 ppg (5thin 4A)

  • 3 returning starters
  • 4-2 defense

Key defensive returning starters

  • Miles Reynolds: Reynolds is coming off a monster year in which he had 84 tackles. Expect Reynolds to have an even bigger 2018 as the leader of the Snow Canyon defense.
  • Brock Nowatzke: Nowatzke had 36 tackles a season ago, along with two interceptions. He will have to step up in the defense this year.

Returning defensive starters

  • Tui Kanosh (DE)
  • Brock Nowatzke (S)
  • Miles Reynolds (LB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Esplin’s comments on Miles Reynolds:

“To me, he’s the best linebacker in 4A. I know that that’s saying a lot, but he’s got everything that we hope for, and we’ve had some good linebackers come through, some all-state kids. He’s probably a little bit faster than our past all-state kids, he’s able to play some high safety even, if we need to drop him back, really good against the run. Before the playoffs went on, when we were still in it, he was one of the leading tacklers in the state last year as a junior, so I think he has a chance to be the tackle leader in the state if things go the way that we expect them to with him.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

“Physical, still, is No. 1. We preach getting everybody to the football. We’ve done a pretty good job with that the last few years. We’ve got a lot of athletes out on the field, even our D-linemen are able to run, so we want to be quick to get set up and we all want to run and make sure we handle our responsibility, run or pass. Team defense, not necessarily stats for any one or two guys, but we preach, ‘Run to the ball, pursue, get all the way to the whistle and get every gold helmet to the ball.”

Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Fourth

Key Region Game: vs. Dixie, Sept. 14 (Week 5)

Bottom line: Snow Canyon doesn’t return a lot of starters on defense or offense, so the Warriors will be relying on youth to get the job done in 2018. The Warriors will be breaking in a new quarterback, but return two of their top three rushers from a season ago. Miles Reynolds will anchor the defense. Snow Canyon will try and take a step forward and make the postseason after missing the playoffs last season.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — at Ridgeline, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — at Shadow Mountain, Ariz., 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — DIXIE, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — at Pine View, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 4 — at Cedar, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 10 — CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 18 — HURRICANE, 7 p.m.

Felt’s Facts for Snow Canyon

All-time record: 146-104 (24 years)

Region championships: 5 (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003 co)

Playoff appearances: 15

Current playoff appearance streak: 0

All-time playoff record: 22-13

State championships: 2 (1996, 1999)

State championship record: 2-2

Most played rivalry: 27 meetings with Dixie dating back to 1994. Snow Canyon leads 14-13.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Warrior Kyle Coop holds the state record for average rushing yards per game during a season, 236.0, set in 2004. ... Snow Canyon has a perfect playoff record at home — 10-0. Only Skyline has won more on its home field without losing (37).

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 6-3 (3-3 in Region 9 - Missed playoffs)
  • 2016 — 3-7 (1-4 in 3AA South - 3AA First round)
  • 2015 — 6-6 (1-4 in 3AA South - 3AA Semifinals)
  • 2014 — 4-7 (2-4 in 3AA South - Missed playoffs)
  • 2013 — 7-4 (3-3 in 3AA South - Quarterfinals)

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Snow Canyon coaching history

  • 2016-current — Mike Esplin (9-10)
  • 2013-2015 — Marcus Matua (17-17)
  • 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)

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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2016 — Kolton Barber, P
  • 2015 — Joe Servati, DL
  • 2015 — Teagan Mendenhall, LB
  • 2013 — Zachary Kennedy, Specialist
  • 2008 — Adam Timo, RB

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.