Photo By Kyle Riley - #20 Rylan Chandler
Written By: Sven Alskog
There was some level of intrigue as to how the Minico football program would respond to not having Tim Perrigot on the sideline for the first time in 22 years last season.
After a trip to the 4A state playoffs, where the Spartans put up a valiant effort against Skyline, second year head coach Keelan McCaffrey seems to have left little doubt that he was the right selection for the job.
Some of the reasons for the continued success at the varsity level last year included the playmaking ability of Colter May, the dominance of Mason Harwood on the defensive line and the shutdown corner abilities of Conference Defensive Player of the Year Francisco Paz.
While each member of that trio has graduated, optimism remains high on each side of the ball in large part thanks to the four All-Conference selections who do return.
Those players include Greyson Harwood, Rylan Chandler, Tazyn Twiss and Connor Stocking.
Twiss, Chandler and Stocking provide the explosiveness out of that group, while Harwood packs the punch.
“We have skill guys who are returning varsity players that we will have to get the ball to. Connor Stocking is going to be a crucial player for us offensively. He will play all over the field for us at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. He is a great athlete who is long and has the stature and the ability to be a gamebreaker,” said McCaffrey. “Rylan Chandler has the potential to change the game anytime he touches the ball. Last year he had 76 carries, 620 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 27 catches, 595 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. He [also] scored on a kickoff in a big game for us. He is an explosive athlete who can make a defense pay.”
The coach couldn’t forget to mention his anchor on the inside of the line though as well.
“Greyson Harwood, a center who is a University of Idaho Commit, is a big-time player who will need to get our younger guys going and make our run game a force.”
McCaffrey says the success of the offensive unit will all come down to how the front comes together around Harwood.
“It will start with our offensive line. We are strong in the middle at center and will have two returning and three new guys. They have been working hard all summer and I am excited to watch them impose their will. We have plenty of skill guys that can make big plays. We have multiple running backs that can help our offense make plays in the run game. I hope they can control the line of scrimmage and get the ball to our tall wideouts and speed on the outside.”
With the offense looking to not miss much of a beat, the question comes on the other side of the ball. How effective can the Spartans be with all of the losses from a year ago?
“We have to replace nine people on defense. They were a top defensive unit in the state. We gave up 17.4 points per game. [Our defense] kept us in games last year. They were a senior-heavy defense and were relentless on the field. We have an athletic, hungry and young defense. We have to limit the big play and get off the field on third down. We want to run to the ball and tackle well. We have smart players that are very aggressive that I think, again, will help anchor our team. We want to dictate the game and force offenses to execute their game plan,” added McCaffrey.
Freddy Larios is one of the players on the defensive side of the ball who the coach really likes.
“He is a quick, athletic corner who is very coachable. I believe he has worked this summer to understand what he needs to do defensively and how to better position himself. We hope to see him make plays at corner and be a senior leader on defense.”
Middle linebacker Boone Bierman and safety Nick Sorensen are a couple of other pieces to watch for when Minico takes the field this fall.
Other players that McCaffrey signaled out as having a quality offseason of hard work included wide receiver Ben DeVries and offensive lineman Izzy Jasso, both of which have put in plenty of time in the weight room this summer.
While sometimes a coaching staff gets excited over a senior class or a freshman class, the Minico coaches like the depth of talent in the program from top to bottom.
“I am excited to watch our seniors perform well. I think we have great leadership and some of the best seniors we have had since I have been here. Our younger guys - they play so hard when they are on the field - those juniors and some sophomores, give us the ability to coach them hard because they keep coming back for more. They possess speed and a lot of talent that we are excited to use,” added McCaffrey.
Minico will once again start the season with a matchup in the Rocky Mountain Rumble, taking on Tooele (UT) on August 30 at Holt Arena in Pocatello.