Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
At a recent practice, Boulder City High football coach Alex Kazel decided it was time to implement the punt team.
It took one announcement and 10 of 11 players ran out onto the field in their places, regardless of the fact that this was the first time the Eagles worked on the formation this year.
“We only had to replace one kid from last year,” Kazel said. “Everyone was looking around and was like, ‘We got it.’ The kids know our stuff. The learning curve isn’t as steep as last year. We can focus on refining things, retuning things and getting better.”
Hopes are high that Boulder City can put together its best season since 2009, the last time it finished with a winning record at 6-4. That comes with the territory when returning 14 starters from a team that showed promise at the end of last year by going 2-2 in the final month.
The Eagles return 20 players with varsity experience, a staggering figure considering they start the season with only 24 on the roster.
“We have low numbers, but that’s how it goes sometimes depending on the year,” Kazel said. “We have a small junior class, so that’s how it is.”
The Eagles will suit up 15 seniors, as opposed to five juniors. Among those five, however, are some of the players Boulder City will lean on the most.
Junior running back Xavier Steel had broken out by the end of last year and averaged seven yards per carry. J.D. Owens, a class of 2014 classmate, will work as Steel’s complement in the backfield.
Owens clears holes like an ideal fullback but can also bruise his way to long runs, as evidenced by a 50-yard touchdown run in last year’s opener and a 61-yard performance on four carries against rival Basic.
When it comes to leadership, Kazel said he couldn’t ask for much more than seniors D.J. Koopman and Michael Kelso. If Koopman and Kelso lead the team in both receiving and tackling, it would come as no surprise.
Seniors Billy Viera and Corbett Fleming also could double as offensive producers and key defenders. Several Eagles will have to contribute on both sides of the ball, but Kazel won’t classify it as problematic.
“We’re picking up from where we left off last year,” he said. “We all know each other. These kids have played together, and there’s a lot to be said with chemistry on this team.”