Fernley will tow the line
Dave Hart, veteran Fernley High football coach, was succint when he talked about this year’s team.
He spoke in glowing terms about his returning offensive linemen – senior guard Chris Leonard (6-0, 235), junior guard Joe Carter (6-2, 230), senior center Tommy Vereen (6-6, 295), senior tackle Jay Ellis (6-0, 215) and senior tackle Shane Nixon (5-11, 185).
“Chris and Joe are good football players,” Hart said. “The whole group works very hard and is very strong. We will go as far as they (offensive line) can carry us I think.”
Matt Hartley is one of the top subs on the interior line.
Once you get past the offensive line, inexperience dots the rest of the starting lineup, according to Hart.
Junior Dan Henderson, who threw just a few passes last season, will operate Hart’s double-wing offense. Hart is trying to convert Jessie Turner, a former wide receiver, into the No. 2 quarterback.
“Dan didn’t get too much playing time last year,” said Hart, whose Vaqueros are coming off a 2-7 season. “He mostly played linebacker for us. Jessie hasn’t had any experience at quarterback, so we’ll see (how things go) once we start practice.”
Cody McDougal (5-9, 165), who rushed for 400 yards out of the wingback spot last year, will be the featured back this year. McDougal started every game last season. The other running back is Brian Jones (5-11, 170), a converted wide receiver, and fullback is up for grabs between sophomore Travis Nunez (6-0, 170) and converted offensive lineman John Phoenix (6-2, 220).
“Brian did a great job at football camp and has worked hard in the weight room,” Hart said. “He’s excited about trying to do it (change positions). The fullbacks aren’t outside runners. They’ll run traps, but their primary focus is blocking.”
Tight end is shaping up as a three-way battle between Steve Geil (6-1, 185), Tim Raible (5-10, 195) and Dan Allred (5-10, 180). Raible and Allred were both offensive linemen a year ago, and Hart is trying to find spots for everybody to play.
On defense, Hart has switched to a 3-3-5, the same defense used by the Air Force Academy.
“The hardest thing to find in football is defensive linemen,” Hart said. “With this defense, you don’t have to have as much size. There are always a bunch of linebacker types. The kids really like it. It’s a fun defense to run. This defense will make it easier to adjust against wide-open offenses that we’ll see.”
Carter and Leonard open camp as the defensive ends, and Ellis has the unenviable job as the nose guard.
Phoenix, Dustin Maguin (5-11, 155), Nixon, Robert Tansill (5-10, 155) and Travis McCurry (5-10, 160) are the starting linebackers. Phoenix will be in the middle.
Jones and sophomore Cory Rico (5-9, 150) man the cornerback spots and McDougal starts at safety.
Hart looks at Truckee as the 3A favorite this year with Manogue having moved up to 4A.
“They should be very solid,” Hart said. “They had an undefeated JV team last year, and return their top quarterback and running back.
“Spring Creek had a bunch of talented sophomores last year, but they lost a bunch of linemen. Dayton is improved with good skill people. I’m hoping with our linemen we’ll be in the mix. Lowry with its option should be pretty competitive.”