ST. GEORGE – A lot of folks were surprised by the Snow Canyon Warriors last season. Under a new head coach and coming off several years of mediocre results, SC went 7-4 and won a road playoff game.
The Snow Canyon Warriors look to improve on their surprise season last year. Coach Marcus Matua’s squad won six of its first seven games, won its first playoff game before eventually falling to Juan Diego in the quarterfinals.
Repeating that hot start will be more difficult this year given the Warriors’ early strength of schedule. They start the season with 5A schools Copper Hills and Cottonwood at home. They then travel to perennial 3AA powerhouse Juan Diego before opening region play against Pine View on the road.
“We are going to continue to turn heads this year,” said Matua. “Our program continues to improve. We have seen the preseason rankings. We are not a fifth or sixth place team.”
The Warrior offense will be directed by senior quarterback Jacob Frei. Frei saw action in several games last year as the backup to Warner Rigby, starting five games when Rigby went down with an injury. Frei’s confidence level is high to start the year.
“Last year I think I was unfairly labeled as strictly a passing quarterback,” said Frei. “I have the ability to make plays on the ground as well, but passing has always been a primary option.”
Matua also recognizes Frei’s skill set and forecasts more diverse play calling this year with Frei at the helm.
“Last year we ran the ball 80 to 90 percent of the time with Rigby,” he said. “This year you will see that number decrease sharply with Jake (Frei) behind center.”
In addition to Rigby, the Warriors also lost star running backs Connor Parry and Zach Kennedy. Matua feels that even with those losses, the Warriors strengths this year are at the skill positions.
“Undoubtedly, we lost some great players last year,” said Matua. “But we have three to four players at running back and another three to four at wide receiver that are going to make some plays for us this year. They have good speed and run tight, concise routes.”
A key returnee and probable major target for Frei will be senior tight end Chance Thorkelson. Thorkelson had 454 yards receiving and two touchdowns last year.
The Warriors will also have to replace four-fifths of their starting offensive line from last year. The sole returner is junior Joe Servati. They will also get a boost from senior Ike Jorgenson, who returns after sitting out last year with an injury.
The heart and soul of the Warrior defense, senior linebacker Brady Sargent, returns to a squad that became known for its intensity and ferocious hitting. Sargent led the team with 113 tackles last year. Also returning is linebacker Sam Slivers and last year’s interception leader, senior defensive back Richmond Anderson.
Anchoring the defensive line will be Servati, Jorgenson and junior defensive end Brock Staheli.
“Our summer program and preseason camps have given the coaching staff great reason for optimism,” said Matua. “Our only question mark right now is the offensive line. We are seeing tremendous play from players eager to earn spots, but they are not battle-tested yet and it is hard to say how the effort will translate on the game field. We may be making more adjustments after the first couple of games when we see how different rotations work together.”
On repeating last year’s success, Matua appeared pragmatic, yet bulldogged in his response.
“We don’t get caught up in wins and losses,” he said. “We like to see improvement and increased cohesive play. The wins will take care of themselves. Our early schedule will get us ready for region play.”
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