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September 1, 2014

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high school football:

Eldorado football players go the extra mile in the offseason, ready for Cleat Game against Chap

Sundevils ‘want to get the cleat back,” but focused on more than one game

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Eldorado High football players (from left) Fareti Tavaivale, Dallas Kounovsky and Ta’Varea Shelton before the 2013 season.

Southeast League — 2013

Basic High football players (from left) Pale Laulu, Antraye Johnson and Steven Lalli before the 2013 season. Launch slideshow »

Vernon Brown, Eldorado head coach

Vernon Brown, Eldorado head coach, talks about the upcoming season.

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go through the schedule and discuss all of Saturday's games after looking back at the major topics to come out of the first two weeks of football.

On Thursday, two days before Vernon Brown’s Eldorado High football team opens the season with the Cleat Game rivalry against Chaparral, the coach was asked about playing in one of Nevada’s most storied games.

He just didn’t want to look that far ahead.

“It’s a big game, of course, and we want to get the cleat back,” he said. “But we are taking it one day at a time this year. I’m worried about today’s practice. It’s Thursday. Let’s worry about Saturday then.”

One of Brown’s philosophies in the offseason was making sure his team improved each day. They finished last in the six-team Southeast League in 2013, the Sundevils initial season competing in what some feel in the state’s most difficult league.

So, Brown changed the way he managed the offseason, staying on players to attend training sessions and making sure the long hours weren’t wasted. It’s too early to tell if the extra work was beneficial, but Brown can tell the obvious: in comparison to this time last year, his team is better across the board.

“We are a lot bigger, stronger and faster,” he said. “We think we are armed and ready. It was a big adjustment period last year in going from the Northeast to the Southeast with the style of football. We weren’t ready to play those big and power teams like Liberty and Coronado. We weren’t able to match them.”

That shouldn’t be a problem this season — at least defensively.

Led by senior linebackers Fareti Tauvalvale and De’Andre Taylor, promising junior nose guard Reydin Dennis (6-foot, 290 pounds) and senior defensive lineman Dallas Kounovsky, Brown says his defense will be one of the team’s strengths.

“Defensively, we are a really good ball club,” he said. “If you can stop people from scoring, you will always have a chance. We think we can get some turnovers to help out the offense.”

Eldorado changed offenses in the spring, switching to a pistol attack to give its skilled position players more opportunities to get the ball in space. Junior Josh Brown, coach Brown’s son, returns for his second season as the Eldorado quarterback, and junior wide receiver Kareem Irving has emerged as a threat in the passing game.

“Josh can do more things out of that formation. With the pistol offense, you can move guys around a lot more,” coach Brown said. “It should improve our running game and help our offense put up some points.”

On the offensive line, the trio of Kounovsky, junior Luis Villareal and Edgar Cisneros lead a unit that is expected to be more effective than last year because of the improvements in team strength courtesy of the extra training.

“We rededicated ourselves,” Brown said. “By far, we had more kids in the weight room and more kids running track to get faster (than in past seasons).”

For veterans such as Kounovsky, the effort will be worthwhile come Saturday. That’s when Eldorado battles Chaparral in the Cleat Game, which dates back to the 1970s. Not only did Eldorado lose last year, they were blown out in a humbling loss. They wound up finishing 1-8 overall, giving the players much motivation in the offseason.

“I’m pretty confident. I honestly think we can make the playoffs this year,” Kounovsky said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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