In the past we’ve had a lot of kids come out the first part of the season and then end up just kind of fading out due to grades or injuries and whatnot. My main goal has always been what you start, you finish. —Monument Valley head football coach Jim Dandy

Note: Monument Valley finished with a 3-6 overall record in 2013 and was fourth in 1A South with a 1-3 record. It lost to Duchesne 42-6 in the 1A quarterfinals.

Each year, Monument Valley head football coach Jim Dandy has the goal of helping his team win at least half of its games. After a 2013 campaign that saw the Cougars finish with just a 3-6 clip, Dandy wants to see more success this season.

But in another sense he has a bigger picture in mind.

He wants to build a culture within Monument Valley football and not just have it be an activity some kids are partially engaged in. For starters, he simply wants to see every player who begins the season for him finish it.

“In the past we’ve had a lot of kids come out the first part of the season and then end up just kind of fading out due to grades or injuries and whatnot,” Dandy said. “My main goal has always been what you start, you finish.”

But in Dandy’s view, building a culture around the Cougars isn’t solely the responsibility of his players.

“Usually I don’t really have a whole lot of parental support,” he said. “I’m trying to work on that and get the community involved as well.”

Such is a challenge when many of his players move from the Monument Valley area with their families for job opportunities elsewhere and often don’t return until right before the school year begins. But it’s an obstacle Dandy is used to facing after 14 years of coaching the Cougars.

Once this year’s team does hit the field, Dandy should have a nice core back from the 2013 season, led by Terrell Blackmountain, Keevin Bedonie and Malcolm Begay. Offensively, Blackmountain will be at running back, Bedonie will be at quarterback, and Begay will be Dandy’s slotback. Defensively, all three will play most of their time at linebacker.

Bedonie does have a challenger at quarterback to replace the graduated Lawrence Atine, however. Sergio Morales was a receiver last year, and Dandy was impressed with his overall instincts and great agility. Morales hit a growth spurt last spring and has the physical tools to be a solid signal-caller.

While Dandy feels good about the players returning at the skill positions, the trenches are an area of concern for him on both sides of the ball. With up to eight freshmen coming into the program who have the requisite size to play on the offensive and defensive lines, Dandy may hand most of the responsibility in that area to the youngsters.

Defensively, like with the linebacking corps, Dandy is looking forward to the experience that will return in the secondary, as strong safety is the only position he’s looking to fill. Keelin Bedonie, Keevin’s twin, will lead that unit, while Daniel Ma’afala, the nephew of former University of Utah and NFL running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala, will be back after missing much of 2013 because of injury.

“As far as the secondary, I don’t think we’re gonna be struggling as much as on the line,” Dandy said. “At least we’ll have some experienced players playing the cornerback and free safety positions.”

Monument Valley Cougars at a glance

Coach: Jim Dandy is back for the third year of his second stint as head coach of the Cougars. This will be his 15th year overall leading the program. He has amassed a 36-51 record during his career.

Offense

(8 returning starters; Option offense)

The skill positions will be Monument Valley’s strength offensively, as Dandy will have a good quarterback, running back and slotback at his disposal. The fact that there’s competition at quarterback is an indication that Dandy will have the chance to choose a player he has confidence in to play the position. The offensive line may struggle because of its youth, which could end up hindering an otherwise pretty solid offense.

Defense

(8 returning starters)

The Cougars gave up a lot of points in 2013 and many players are back on defense from that squad, but Dandy is hoping that experience will count for something and help his players be better in 2014. The defensive line will be young, so Dandy will need the seasoned secondary and linebacking corps to play like veterans if Monument Valley is to stop opponents.

Coaches preseason Region 1A South straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 1A South prediction: Fourth

Bottom line: The Cougars will likely be stuck in fourth in the 1A South region. They’ll probably gel faster than Whitehorse, but not quite have the talent to compete with Kanab, Monticello or Diamond Ranch.

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Monument Valley coaching history

2012-current — Jim Dandy (8-12)

2010-2011 — Powers Whiskers (8-13)

1998-2009 — Jim Dandy (34-47)

1993-1997 — Carl Sumsion (3-24)

1991-1992 — Babe Malufau (4-14)

1985-1990 — unknown (16-35)

1984 — Ollie Whaley (0-8)

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Deseret News First Team all-state players the past 10 years

2013 — Terrell Blackmountain, QB/DB

2009 — Josh Nelson, FB/S

To view second team and honorable mention all-state players through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Ryan McDonald is a former intern at LDS Church News. He is studying communication at the University of Utah, where he works as the sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. He can be reached via email at mcdonald.ryanw@gmail.co