Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Shadow Ride High spent all of last season in a state of transition.
The school hired Frank Tousa as its football coach a few weeks before practice started, meaning he had to scramble to get organized for the season.
Most first-year coaches get to know their personnel in the offseason. Tousa had to do it while the Mustangs were playing games.
“It definitely affected us,” Tousa said. “We had to put everything in on the run. I missed out on three or four months of lifting. It made a difference.”
The Mustangs never caught up and went winless a year after completing one of the best seasons in school history by notching six victories and making the playoffs.
It’s easy to hear the relief in Tousa’s voice when he discusses having significant preparation time. He reported stellar attendance in Shadow Ridge’s weightlifting program. The team went to Utah State’s football camp, yet another luxury they missed last year without a coach.
“We were real competitive up there,” Tousa said. “I was happy with it. We’ve had a lot more time to prepare and work with the kids.”
Although only eight starters return, several players who logged meaningful playing time are back this season.
Andrew Kesi, Robby Mokiao and J Henderson make up a linebacking corps that Tousa points to as the team’s strength.
“It’s a great and close-knit group of guys,” he said. “They know each other and what needs to be done on the field. They have experience and are going to make a lot of plays.”
Henderson also will play quarterback, splitting time as the signal caller with newcomer Bakari Smith, who transferred from Cheyenne. Smith didn’t start for the Desert Shields last season, but he received a lot snaps.
Most coaches who go into the season with two quarterbacks are looking for one to pull away and win the job. Not Tousa. It’s fine with him if Smith and Henderson split the duties equally all season.
“We want them both to play defense, so we’re going to switch them up a lot,” Tousa said. “That’s the plan. With J at outside linebacker and Bakari at cornerback, I think it will work for us.”
Smith is more of a running quarterback and could create a speedy tandem with running back Ryan Johnson. Tousa raves about the way Henderson’s arm has come along since last season, when he started as a sophomore.
Senior receivers Alex Wise and Deshawn Thompson will look to take advantage.
“I think the kids are motivated by what happened last year,” Tousa said.