After going winless last year with a young team, the Minarets Mustangs hope to make a much stronger showing this season as they enter the West Sequoia League.
With weapons such as senior fullback Zach Thomas, (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) with a lot of strength and speed and elusive senior halfback Jake Corchine (5-foot-8, 180-pounds), offensive coordinator coach Daniel Ching is confident the Mustangs will have a strong running game.
Junior quarterback Keenan Reardon (5-foot-11, 185-pounds) ran for more than 1,200 yards last season and expected to throw plenty this season to a group of returning receivers led by junior Scott Parker (5-foot-11, 150-pounds), Reardon's "go to" receiver last year. Reardon was the team's offensive MVP last season.
With junior Sam Reyes (5-foot-11, 140 pounds), the Mustangs now have a second deep threat. Both receivers are sure handed and have play breaking speed. Reyes, as a sophomore, had a great season on the JV team in his first year playing football. The Mustangs starting shortstop on the diamond, Reyes led JV receivers in receptions and touchdowns, the first, coming on his first catch as a football player, a 65-yard reception.
Junior Connor Reid returns at the slot receiver position. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder has been steadily developing in only his second year playing the game. He will draw plenty of attention from linebackers coming off the line with his speed and vertical reach. Readon's passing yards are expected to go up with with this group of talented receivers.
Junior Jackson Soares has taken on the duties at center. A thorn in the Mustangs side last year, the team used four different centers searching for a quality snapper. On average, the team surrounded about 80 yards a game, the result of snaps sailing over the quarterbacks head, often in the red zone, causing the team a win or two.
Coach Ching and the Mustangs offense should have no problem putting points on the board this season.
On the defensive side of the ball head coach Jay Smoljan is excited with his group of linebackers and the secondary. Realizing the tough schedule ahead of him, Smoljan is focusing on fundamentals. The defense was a problem for the young Mustangs last year and conditioning may have played a part. The team surrendered nearly 50 points a game last year with the majority coming in the second half.
The team had a summer conditioning program in place this year and introduced a new weight program. With the addition of Reyes's speed and Yosemite transfer Mitch Pritchett (Pritchett will sit till mid season) in the secondary, the Mustangs should have the deep threat better defended.
With defensive coordinator Bob Kelly bringing his expertise to the line, this Minarets defense will be vastly improved over last years squad, which struggled playing up as sophomores.
Another of the teams strengths this season, that has been a problem in the past, will be their depth. For the first time in the programs short history, the Mustangs will enjoy some depth at key positions and should have the luxury of substituting freely.
Soares and Pritchett are well qualified to back-up Reardon and they provide Ching some strong options should he chose to change up the offense a bit. Both are well qualified to take the reins.
Mustangs JV team
Second year quarterback, Justin Black (5-foot-7, 150 pounds) has a cannon of an arm and shows good vision down field, while possessing break away speed in the open field.
The backfield is just as dangerous with first year players Steven Gall and Erin Clay, who both run a 4.8 40 and have moves to go with the speed.
Opening the holes, while getting his share of carries will be head coach Steve Cordel's son, fullback Golden Cordel. A fast and powerful runner with great hands, Cordel might prove to be the Mustangs "go to guy."
Coach Cordel was a first team All American cornerback at Fresno State.
The team's featured receiver will be the agile 6-foot-3 freshman Mason Ellis. Along with his speed, Ellis is the deep threat coaches spend their nights dreaming of. The JV squad enjoys depth at most positions.
With Cordel's defensive experience, his defense should keep them in every game.
Friday the Mustangs host Firebaugh in a scrimmage. The Eagles were 9-3 last year including a first-round win in the play-offs before losing 42-21 to Liberty in the second round.
The Eagles, who lost 20 seniors from last year's team, is led by junior quarterback Josh Allen who threw for 21 TDs for the JV team last season.
Minarets is trying to raise funds to purchase additional bleachers, since home game crowds have outgrown the school's current seating capacity. The school is seeking contributions to purchase three sets of bleachers for the season. Each set seats 150 fans and cost $15,000. Anyone interested in contributing should contact the school.
The Mustangs open the regular season Aug. 31 at Sierra. JV game, 5 p.m., varsity, 7 p.m.