Note: Whitehorse finished with a 2-7 overall record in 2010 and a 0-3 record in the 1A South Division. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
Like most football teams, the Whitehorse Raiders have a goal for this season.
Their aim is to reach the playoffs. It's an objective they fell just short of a year ago.
"We lost a few players to grades for the last two games last season," head coach Fernando Fonseco said. "And in a school the size of ours, you just can't make that up."
Fortunately for Fonseco and the rest of the Raiders, most of last year's team is back, which will allow the team to pick up where they left off rather than start all over again.
"We had a lot of new sophomores and freshman last year," the coach said, "and now they have a season under their belts."
Whitehorse returns 13 starters, including one All-Stater in Keevin Bellison.
"He's one of the team leaders," Fonseco said, "and we really expect a lot from him this year."
Bellison is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior who, like most Whitehorse football players, plays both sides of the ball. Being able to be on the field so much, Fonseco said, "is the advantage of playing for a small school."
On offense, Bellison is a running back and a receiver. On defense, he's moving from cornerback and safety to be primarily a linebacker this season, because "he's bigger and meaner than a lot of linebackers, and it's the right move for our team."
The Raiders have nine returning starters on offense and on defense, leaving the coaching staff just two positions to fill in on each side of the ball.
"We've been able to move some kids around, especially on defense and that will really help us out," Fonseco said. "We have some aggressive players who just fly around the field and love to tackle."
One of those players is Yonnie Whitehorse, a senior lineman whom Fonseco describes as "really good." Add to that 6-foot and 210-pound returning tackle Tristan Mitchell and Tyler Jones, a "strong and smart" senior linebacker who, Fonseco said, thrives on defense.
Directing the Whitehorse offense is returning starting quarterback Cedale Armstrong. He stands 5-foot-9, weighs 175 pounds, and is entering just his sophomore year of high school.
"He did pretty good starting as a freshman," Fonseco said of Armstrong. "We sent him to a couple of football camps over the summer and they really helped him out. He's matured, and he's ready to go. He's a quick, smart kid and he knows how to read the defense."
Armstrong, as well as the rest of the team, increased the level of focus on conditioning throughout the summer months.
"We are noticeably strong this year. We've hit the weights more than ever," Fonseco said, and then added, with a laugh, "I hope the other schools are ready. We'll be ready to go."
Whitehorse Raiders at a glance
Coach: Fernando Fonseca is entering his fourth season at Whitehorse, putting together a 6-18 record over the last three years. He grew up in Wexlaco, Texas, and came to Montezuma Creek after serving in the military.
(9 returning starters; Spread offense)
Cedale Armstrong is just a sophomore but is already a returning sophomore at the quarterback position. He and senior Keevin Bellison will direct an offense that averaged just 10.67 points per game last season. Most of the team is returning, however, and they do so with experience on their side.
(9 returning starters)
The Whitehorse defense is in much the same position as the offense — allowed too many points last season (29.89 per game) but brings back most of the starters, suggesting that experience will be a positive factor. Bellison, Whitehorse, Mitchell, and Jones will anchor an aggressive squad.
Bottom Line: The Raiders have playoff goals this season and are hoping a more experienced team will be able to achieve what they fell short of a year ago. With only around 15 players on the team, having every player ready to go every game counts for a lot. Whitehorse needs to strive to keep every man on the field in order to move toward its goal.
Aug. 19 — MONUMENT VALLEY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Newcomb, N.M., 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — MILFORD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Nucla, Colo., 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Shonto Prep, Ariz., 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — MONTICELLO, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 — at San Juan JV, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Rock Point, Ariz., 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Monument Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at Mancos, Colo., 7 p.m.