Better numbers, experience give Plateau Valley Cowboys


About the Cowboys

Coach: Dave Bristol, 29th year, fourth year in third stint with team

2012 record: 0-7

Assistant coaches: Brian Bristol, defensive coordinator; Justin Clark, special teams/LB; Brad Burghart, offense.

Returning starters: TE/DE Lane Castro, 5-10, 150, jr.; G/DT Tony Harris, 5-10, 175, soph.; C Troy Bumgardner, 5-9, 230, sr.; TE/DE Alex Cox, 5-9, 145, jr.; FB/LB Cody Hoffman, 5-9, 155, jr.; WB Hunter Bagette, 5-8, 145, jr.; Dayne Havens, 5-7, 135, sr.

Key newcomers: TB Chris Miller, 5-9, 180, soph.; Tyler Zade, 5-11, 175, sr.

Base offense: Single wing

Base defense: 3-3

This is how far Plateau Valley has progressed since a winless 2012 season: The Cowboys have enough varsity players to schedule several junior varsity games.

In his fourth year back as head coach, Dave Bristol called that huge for his Class A-8 Western Conference football program, which hasn’t fielded a JV team since his return. The Cowboys will be able to develop talent, instead of throwing young players, especially freshmen, to the varsity wolves.

The Cowboys have better numbers, more experience, competition for positions and a chance to develop players. There will be about 10 players of the 24 on varsity playing football for the first time, but Bristol can go beyond teaching fundamentals with many players. That wasn’t the case in recent years.

“We’re clearly better than we were,” he said. “We had kids in the weight room, more than we’ve had in a long time. Our conditioning is much better than last year. We’re ahead of where were with experience. I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”

The Cowboys return some experienced players on offense and added assistant coach Brad Burghart, whom Bristol said already has made a difference.

Plateau Valley has several backfield candidates, but who will play tailback, essentially the quarterback in the single-wing offense, remains unsettled. Sophomore Chris Miller, who moved to Collbran from Florida, is a strong candidate to start at tailback. Although the quarterback aspect of that position is new to Miller, he has some throwing ability, Bristol said.

Some returning starters on defense are moving to new positions. Lane Castro, a defensive end last year, probably will play linebacker. Cody Hoffman was a linebacker, but Bristol said toward the end of last season he realized Hoffman, despite being 155 pounds, is “very functional on the defensive line.”

Last year was the first year of football for defensive back Dayne Havens, and Bristol calls the senior a late bloomer who has “good speed and a bit of an edge to him.”

Alex Cox will play defensive end, and Bristol said the 145-pound junior is “way better, more ready to play than he was last year.”

Bristol said he thinks the Cowboys will win some games. Regardless of the record, he feels good about the future.

“I think we’ve turned a corner from being nearly totally in survival mode to being in a position where we can compete,” he said.

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