With the first game of the new football season just two weeks away, there are new expectations for this years program at Minarets High School under Coach Bob Kelly, in his third year at the helm.
Kelly has compiled a 5-15 record in his two previous seasons but is looking to turn the tables on the West Sequoia League this year as he enjoys a team flush with seniors and players that have played under him and defensive coach Steve Cordel for three years.
The Mustangs will enjoy their most favorable schedule under Kelly’s tenure, with five home games, opening Sept. 4, hosting Sierra. The Mustangs have come accustom to playing on the road with just three home games two seasons ago, and four last season. The Mustangs five wins under Coach Kelly have all been at home.
This year’s team will will feature 6-foot-4, 200 pound senior runnerback/reciever Mason Ellis. He participated in the Students With Aspiring Goals football program over the summer and traveled throughout the state playing in 7-on-7 games with some of the states elite high school football players. He is expected to build on an outstanding season last year, leading the team in nearly all categories on offense and defense.
Junior Luke Pritchett is expected to get the start under center with Holden Cordel in the back field joining Ellis when he is not in the slot position. Cordel has been one of the hardest working Mustangs this off season, adding muscle to go with his quickness to the hole. Cordel and Ellis should give the Mustangs a formidable ground attack.
The Mustangs have a handful of new players to the game that are expected to make an impact, including senior Jasper Philips, a soccer player who brings speed and good hands at the wide out position.
At 6-foot-6, 222 pounds, junior Grant Denny is learning the game and is expected to make his presence known at the end position. Senior Kaleb Facoine, after sitting out last season, will see playing time and will add needed speed to the Mustangs secondary. He will also back up Pritchett at quarterback.
Big line anchored by Mollet, Christian, and Varner
The Mustangs line has the capability of being the best the team has put on the field, with three years experience under their belt and a weight training program in place, Kelly's returners should clear the way for Ellis and Cordel to gain big yards as the season progresses.
Anchoring the offensive will be Ben Mollet, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Logan Christian, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, and Jared Varner, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds.
What the Mustangs enjoy in size on the line this year, they lack in numbers, with just about 20 players on the team. The Mustangs played some great first halfs last season but surrendered big plays in the final two quarters to lose games.
Michael Warnert, lost for the season last year to a broken wrist, will be back to shore up the line, but the bench will be thin. Many players will be playing both sides of the ball, and conditioning could be a deciding factor in games this season. The Mustangs will need to avoid injury to sustain momentum throughout the season.
Kelly said that through the first two weeks of practice, the team is light years ahead of where they have been at this time the past two years.
“We have a solid core of committed players who give us the chance to be more competitive than we’ve ever been,” Kelly said. “However, as I say that, we still have a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
Kelly said the team has had a good off-season conditioning with new JV Coach Jackson Lakatani, who is also serving as the program’s strength and conditioning coach.
“Coach Lakatani has been a burst of positive energy that has infused our players with greater strength, speed, and flexibility as well as much greater mental toughness,” Kelly said. “Our leaders are learning how to lead and our team is learning how to give a high level of effort down in and down out. We’re also learning how to keep a high level of focus and hold each other accountable for our responsibilities.”
The team will hold its Purple and Gold scrimmage at 4 p.m. this Friday at North Fork Elementary School. The team will then host a scrimmage with Yosemite, and Mariposa on Thursday, Aug. 27. Varsity and JV teams will take the field at 5:30 p.m.