By: J. Ray Dockter
As the calendar turns from July to August we will kick off our previews of the Northern Nevada high school football season. I am extremely happy to be bringing these previews to you once again this season - to everyone who reads my articles over the next few weeks/months I'd like to say "Thank You." With that brief introduction out of the way, let's take a look at what you can expect from me over the next few weeks.
I will preview twenty teams from the Northern 5A, and 3A in the coming weeks. I will also have a few surprises along the way with other articles. Here is my tentative schedule for when those previews will be out:
Jul. 30: Seven things I'm looking forward to this high school football season
Aug. 1: Bishop Manogue, Carson
Aug. 2: Churchill County, Damonte Ranch
Aug. 3: Douglas, Elko
Aug. 4: Fernley, Galena
Aug. 7: Hug, Lowry
Aug. 8: McQueen, North Valleys
Aug. 9: Reed, Reno
Aug. 10: So. Tahoe (Calif.), Spanish Springs
Aug. 11: Sparks, Spring Creek
Aug. 14: Truckee (Calif.), Wooster
Aug. 15: League Previews, Season Predictions
Aug. 16: All 23 Pre-Season Teams for Northern Nevada
Aug. 17: Pound-For-Pound Power Rankings
Aug. 18: Game Previews and Predictions
During the week of Aug. 14 after team previews are finished we will release our predictions for the 5A and 3A football season, as well as our preseason selections for the top players in Northern Nevada. We will follow that up by introducing our first "Pound-for-Pound All Class Northern Nevada Power Rankings" before rounding out the week with Game Previews and Predictions as the first week of games gets under way.
Before we get started on the team previews, here are seven things I'm looking forward to as the season gets underway Aug. 18th.
1. Is this the year that a team from Northern Nevada wins a "large-class" state championship?
Yes. It has been 14 years since a team from Northern Nevada last won a "large-class" state championship. With the creation of the 5A-I, 5A-II, and 5A-III I believe that this is the year that it can happen for the first time in a over a decade. The last team to win a state championship from Northern Nevada was the McQueen Lancers in 2008 (when their team featured future NFL-player Kyle Van Noy). That McQueen team had multiple players on it that played college football at various levels, and I think they have some similarities to this season's Bishop Manogue squad. To name a few, Bishop Manogue has Ben Scolari and Salesi Manu, who are surefire Division-I players, along with Cody Fleischmann, Dom Marconato, Marrio Williams Jr., and Jadyn Buckner, who all have the ability to play next-level football according to multiple coaches around the area.
2. How will Hug, North Valleys, and Wooster's seasons play out as they play "large-class" football once again?
Hug made the playoffs last season in the 3A and their coaching staff will continue to inspire and build confidence in their squad this year, but I believe that they will finish no higher than the third spot in their league, making the playoffs in the process. North Valleys will still be a relatively young team this season but returns quite a few players that got good playing time last season, so they are a bit of a 'wild card' as the season begins. Wooster made the playoffs last season in the 3A and was also a playoff participant in their final season in the "large-class" the last time they competed there. They have quite a few alum that have come back to coach and are slowly building Wooster's tradition back to where it was, instilling "Wooster Pride" in their current players along the way.
3. It feels great to be back to the "traditional" 3A again this year.
As someone who is around the 3A quite often I can honestly say I'm so happy to be back to the traditional one-league 3A that has rural towns facing off against one another. I have never experienced high school football in Texas but the feeling I get when I pull up to a football game in rural Nevada makes me think of everything I believe about Texas high school football and it is by far one of my favorite experiences about covering prep sports in the Silver State - believe me when I tell you There is nothing like it. I also love this traditional setup because every team plays every other team in the league and the top six fight it out in the playoffs to determine the regional champion. I LOVE NORTHERN 3A FOOTBALL!!!
4. The 2024 class is loaded with big time talents on both sides of the ball.
The class of 2024 is shaping up to be one of Northern Nevada's best on record in the last decade or so. Among local class of 2024 recruits, Bishop Manogue wideout Ben Scolari (verbal commit to Nevada), Bishop Manogue defensive end/ outside linebacker Salesi Manu (currently reporting over a dozen Division-I offers), and Galena's Tyler Miller (Nevada offer in hand) round out the 'Top Three' in Northern Nevada but many more, including McQueen's Tre LaGrone and Reno's Jackson Sellers could see themselves competing at the Division-I level after their high school playing days are over.
5. I believe that the 3A will be the most competitive league in the entire state.
I have already expressed how much I enjoy Northern 3A football earlier in this article but let me express how much I enjoy 3A football throughout the entire state. When it comes to teams that I have grown to appreciate over the years, a few from southern Nevada come to mind, specifically Moapa Valley (who has only missed the state tournament five times over the last quarter-century) and are winners of four state championships in the last twenty years, Boulder City, SLAM Nevada, and Virgin Valley (state semi-finalist 11 times in the last 25 years). These teams consistently give Northern Nevada a run for their money and these games are always competitive until the very end. Once again, I LOVE 3A FOOTBALL IN NEVADA!!!
6. We still don't have a good playoff system.
This feels like a participation trophy if I am being honest. Of the 20 teams competing at the 5A and 3A classes in Northern Nevada, 18 (ninety percent) of them will "make" the playoffs. Along with all but two of them "making" the playoffs the top two finishers in each class/division will receive a first-round bye. I love the thought of giving the players an opportunity to play in an additional game but I remember a time when four of six/seven teams from each large class league made the playoffs and you had to "earn" your way into the tournament. Sometimes, the more things change I realize the "old way" wasn't all that bad because it created competition to actually "make" the playoffs and earn the right to play in any additional games while competing for a championship.
7. Can Damonte Ranch, Galena, Hug, North Valleys, Reed or Spanish Springs win their first state championship in school history now that we have multiple division's at the state's "large-class?"
Each one of the school's listed above have won at least one team championship in their school's history. However, none of them have come in football. While I was researching for this article I was surprised that school's like Hug and Reed had never won a state championship because when I was in school they were consistently near the top of the standings seemingly every season, and they've been around for quite some time. Galena, upon opening in 1992, took some of south Reno's best athletes away from the football school (Wooster) in that part of town so it was surprising to me that they never had sustained periods of success that resulted in a state championship. North Valleys and Spanish Springs, both opened in 2001, have had team success in softball but never that much sustained success in football. Lastly, Damonte Ranch, arguably the region's top football team in the 2010's, never was able to turn their success under former Coach Dupris into a state title, their great run coinciding with Bishop Gorman's dominance during the decade.
Fun fact: Did you know that every team competing in the Northern 3A this season has won at least one state championship in football in their school's history. Pretty neat considering that it's been quite some time since a few of those schools have been competitive. Just goes to show you that history can, in fact, teach you a few things.
Last, but not least, here is the fall integration schedule for NIAA fall sports (football specific).
Jul. 31 - Aug. 1: Football Heat training, helmets okay.
Aug. 2 - 4: Non-contact "shells" practice.
Aug. 5: All sports practice begins; full-contact football practices begin.
Aug. 11: Schools can scrimmage each other for the first time.
Aug. 17: First day for all fall sports to begin sanctioned athletic competitions.
Aug. 18: Most 5A/3A schools play first non-league games.
Enjoy the season, and I'll see y'all out there!!!
J. Ray Dockter has been covering high school sports since 2022. If you have a story worth telling let him know via Twitter @J_RayDoc.