Football 2015 preview: Navajo Prep looks to conquer challenges this season
Navajo Prep will have to overcome a lot of changes to claim a fourth consecutive District 1-3A title.
Rod Denetso, who took over the Eagles program in 2012, resigned Aug. 7, three weeks before the first game of the season. Five days later, Storm Tallbull, the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2014, was hired as the head coach.
In three years, Denetso compiled a 20-14 record, going 11-0 in district play.
Navajo Prep Executive Director Betty Ojaye said Denetso resigned voluntarily but declined to comment about why he left the program. Efforts to reach Denteso were not successful.
Tallbull said his focus has been making the transition between coaches smooth.
"For these kids, the biggest thing is we have an entirely new staff to the program, but, at the same time, we're not changing things too much from the coaching staff that was here," Tallbull said. "We didn't skip a beat, and the biggest thing that I'm proud of is how they came together."
The players' mindsets have helped with the transition.
"I think everyone is adjusting to it really well because we're focusing on what we need to do and what we need to get done instead of everything else," said Anthony Piochee-Lee, a junior offensive and defensive lineman for the Eagles.
Senior linebacker and running back Ryan Tso said the team has bonded over the recent changes.
"With all the changes, the main thing the coaches said was to stick together as a team," Tso said. "I feel like we've come a long way since then. We have a lot stronger and tighter bond than we did before."
Coaching won't be the only change for the Eagles this season. They will also need to replace standout quarterback Tyler Sorensen, who threw for 9,746 yards and 108 touchdowns in the past three seasons.
Moving into starting quarterback will be sophomore Dakota Halliburton, who transferred from Aztec.
With Halliburton leading the offense, Tallbull said he plans to run a similar, high-passing attack.
"As far as the offense, we don't plan to make many changes. We're pretty much going to be doing the same things we've been doing," Tallbull said. "We might add in some stuff, but it all depends on the game plan and adjust for that."
If the Eagles operate this season like they did the three previous ones, then another district title will be within reach.
"It'd be great, especially for the seniors who have been here for all four years because it would make us district champs for all four years," said senior wide receiver and safety Danté Alonzo. "I think for all of us seniors it would be amazing. It'd be everything we wanted, four district titles and possibly a state title. And I think we can make it to the state title game."