The Chieftains enter the season with a new coach and a new quarterback as they attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
First-year head coach Storm Tallbull is evaluating the players to see which system will work best for the Chieftains. Tallbull took the coaching job from Don Story after Story was promoted to Shiprock's athletic director after a 5-5 season last year.
“We're not set into one offense, and we're not set into one defense. It's all based on our talent,” Tallbull said. “Defensively, if I need to run a three man front, then we'll run a three man front if we're athletic enough.
We haven't set in stone what we're going to do on offense or defense. It's just based on what the boys are capable of doing and what kind of athletes we have.”
With the loss of last year's senior quarterback Adam Begaye, the Chieftains are working out three sophomores at the spot to try to find a replacement.
“We're very young at the quarterback spot. Right now, we have Ryan Nez, Arjay Miller and Irwin Holiday competing for the spot,” Tallbull said. “We're just trying to find out who's the best quarterback and design our offense around that.”
Tallbull likes bringing in a young guy that he can mold into the system in his first year.
“If you have a young guy, you can teach them right off the bat,” he said. “Being around the coaches in our first season will really help us next year, because they'll understand what we want to do and come in and do it.”
Despite having a young team, a few leaders among the seniors have stepped up and helped Tallbull ease into the job.
“Cory Dayish is really bringing out some leadership. He really busted his butt in the weight room all summer long,” Tallbull said. “Nathan Smart will be a game changer at linebacker. Raygen Charley has been a big help for us, and he'll be in at linebacker and running back.”
Dayish is hopeful that the Chieftains will be able to get to the postseason in his senior year.
“I believe we need to get to the state playoffs. That's where I want to be and that's where the team wants to be,” he said. “We have a great team and can make a run for it.”
Shiprock fell short of the District 1-3A title, losing to Bloomfield in the final game of the regular season, but Smart thinks that if the Chieftain defense steps up, they'll have a better chance against the Bobcats this year.
“We just have to work hard and push each other if we want to get that district,” he said.