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August 28, 2014

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high school football:

New coach, new attitude gives Mojave reasons to be optimistic

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Sam Morris

Mojave High School football players Teon White, Marcus Smith Jr. and Sevaughn Thomas.

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer celebrate the return of football season with an hour-long podcast diving into anything and everything regarding local high schools. They also look back on the victories by Bishop Gorman and Moapa Valley in the Sollenberger Classic and finish with week one picks.

When the Mojave High football team takes the field this fall, it will be looking to erase its image as one of Southern Nevada’s underachieving programs.

The Rattlers have made one playoff appearance since the school opened in 1996. But after reaching the postseason in 2007, they have posted a 2-27 record in the three years since while being outscored 1,063-192.

Those figures, however, don’t bother first-year coach Joe Delgado. Since being hired four months ago, Delgado’s top priority has been changing the players’ attitudes.

With the season opener set for next week against Cimarron-Memorial, Delgado is confident the improvements will be obvious. They may even result in a victory.

“It all starts with the kids buying into the program as far as the offensive and defensive schemes and trusting the coaching,” Delgado said. “The best thing we can do it take it one day at a time and work together. They are trusting us. They believe in us.”

And Delgado believes in his players.

Despite not being hired until late May, Delgado was able to raise enough money to send the team to Dixie State camp. After hearing all of the negatives about the program and only having a limited number of practices, he was pleasantly surprised with the team's performance.

His players were tough and physical; they were able to move the football, and they certainly didn’t play like one of the Las Vegas Valley’s worst teams.

He hopes that is evident this fall on Friday nights.

“I’m very excited and anxious to get going. I know we have a good team,” Delgado said. “I want to get out there and see what we can do against our rivals.”

Led by linemen Marcus Smith (6-foot-3, 290-pounds) and Sevaugh Thomas (6-foot-4, 275-pounds), Delgado said the offensive front could be one of the area’s biggest.

They will block for junior quarterback Billy Murphy (6-foot-1, 180-pounds) and running back Clarence Prophet (5-foot-9, 185-pounds). Senior wide receiver Bryant Lewis (6-foot, 185-pounds, who had nine receptions for 138 yards last year against Cheyenne) is likely Mojave’s top offensive player.

Defensively, Michael Saavedra (5-foot-9, 190-pounds) returns at linebacker to anchor the defense, while S’Vonte Smith (5-foot-8, 190-pounds) returns at defensive back. Mojave has seven total returners on both sides of the ball.

Mojave is one of five schools in a Clark County School District reorganization plan aimed at securing a federal grant to improve low-performing schools. Under the plan, a maximum of 50 percent of teachers from last year could return.

Delgado, who previously coached on the lower levels at Cheyenne, replaces Tyrone Armstrong. Delgado knows what providing a winning team will do to boost school morale during the transition.

“The transition has been pretty smooth, actually,” Delgado said. “The greatest thing is the kids are receptive to us, because they were looking for a change and to be part of it. Having a winning football program would, first of all, make all of the kids (at the school excited). It could give them motivation.”

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