The San Manuel football team will open its season this Friday night in San
Tan Valley against San Tan Foothills.
The Miners, who finished 1 – 10 a season ago, improved in enough areas during the offseason for second-year head coach Dan Williams to predict direct opposite results this season.
“We had (good) numbers as far as guys showing up during the summer,” Williams told the Miner. “A lot of guys have grown in strength and speed. I think (2017) is going to be a 180-degree turnaround from last year.”
Defense appears to be the Miners’ greatest strength in 2017, considering the return of middle linebacker Gabe Velasquez and defensive back Benny Laguna.
“Last season, Velasquez was the second-leading tackler in the state,” Williams said. “He’s always impressive; he’s gotten a lot faster and he’s stronger. I think he’s going to continue to dominate.”
“Laguna is probably our top cornerback and I expect big things out of him this year,” Williams continued. “He’s very aggressive and he will attack the ball.”
Both Velasquez and Laguna figure to benefit from the play of the Miners’ defensive line, another strength this season.
The Miners have increased their dedication and are working hard, according to Williams. The team is goal oriented, unlike last year, and everything in the program is more organized, which has resulted in a higher competition, leading to Williams’ optimistic outlook toward the season.
“I can see the difference in the boys in how they train and how they react on the field,” he said. “They understand and know the systems now.”
The Miners’ offense will go as far as sophomore quarterback Caleb Quintero and running back Christian Velasquez will take it.
Quintero, who passed for 1,348 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman, really started to play well toward the end of last season. He’s picked up where he left off and added about 15 pounds of muscle. The rocket-armed signal caller is primed for a big year.
“He’s learning the system really well,” Williams said of Quintero. “I think he can be something really special out there.”
Velasquez is a very talented runner who, when healthy, is as good any running back in the region.
Williams said the Miners must remain disciplined and refuse to quit to find success under the Friday night lights. He believes lack of desire had a direct reflection on the Miners’ win-loss record in 2016.
“I think a lot of times last year we made a few mistakes and then just quit,” he said.
The Miners hope to force other teams into submission, starting Friday night against the Sabercats.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.