It has long been known to Mingus Union High School head football coach Bob Young that his first string players will be competitive this year, and are at the same level as in years past.
They went to the consolation championship, finishing 4-4 against high-level competition from California and Arizona, at a 7-on-7 passing league tournament at San Diego State University over Father’s Day weekend.
But when it comes to playing 11-on-11 with pads and helmets on Fridays in the fall, Young knows just one string of good players will not be enough.
During another afternoon of 7-on-7 at the Marauders’ Bright Field on Wednesday, June 28, he was looking for improved play from his young second string players.
“Second group struggled, you know that’s my concern, the one thing I found out this summer our first group is really good,” Young said. “We have no depth. Years past we always had a little bit of wiggle room when guys got hurt.
We’ve got no wiggle room right now. Some of these other guys have got step up, they’ve got to get better.”
He cited low numbers as the biggest reason. The team has a small group of seniors and a large junior class but a small sophomore class, few ready to make the jump to contributing minutes.
“It’s a combination of everything. It’s a lack of experience, lack of confidence,” Young said. “Just reps, they’ve just got to get more reps. And some of them just physically aren’t ready … they’ve got to continue to get better and stronger in the weight room.”
By the season’s end, with an additional five months of work under their belt, he hopes to see them come in and contribute.
On the day itself, the first-string Marauders repeated what they had done the last time out on June 14.
Junior quarterback Antoine Zabala hit junior receiver Alex Nelson for a pair of deep touchdowns on the first play of two series. It was able move the ball down field in different looks. It scored every possession against 2A Sedona Red Rock High School.
Zabala only threw one interception, on the very first possession of the day against Grand Canyon Region foe Coconino High School.
“Our first team is ready to go, and I’ll tell you what, from our right side to our left side we’re ready to go, so I think we did pretty good today,” said senior Martin Soria, who transferred from 2016 1A state runner-up Williams High School.
Soria, a First Team All-Conference 1A pick as a defensive back and Second Team as a quarterback in 2016, played with the first string on both sides of the ball after having joined the team in spring. He lined up as a receiver and defensive back.
“At first I was nervous, but I feel like I fit in with these guys now and I feel pretty good, I’m ready to ball out,” Soria said.
Defensively the Marauders forced a turnover on downs every time against Red Rock before finally getting an interception against Coconino. However the secondary dropped a number of interceptions.
“That’s just a lack of focus,” Young said. “With this group it’s real easy to tell, when they drop the ball, whether it’s offense or defense, we’re just not locked in we’re not focused.”
Young said that when the team lost in San Diego they were competitive games, losing one right at the end.
“I thought our offense matched some really good offenses there,” Young said. “If you get one stop in a game that might be enough to win. I really thought our offense stepped up and kept us in almost every game.”