Plateau Valley making steady progress after two winless seasons
The winless record for the second straight year didn’t show it, but Plateau Valley High School made progress, and it could pay dividends this fall.
The number of juniors and seniors with three and four years of actually playing football has increased, and most of the sophomores and freshmen have played junior football, longtime coach Dave Bristol said. It means Plateau Valley is rostering actual football players, not players the coaches had to plead with to come out for the sport for the first time just so the Cowboys could field a team to play eight-man football.
“We’re not having to teach, ‘This is the two-hole, and this is the six-hole,’ ” said Bristol, who was happy to add the Cowboys will field a junior varsity team for the second year in a row after several years with no JV program. “Having that core of kids who’ve played quite a bit, that’s the biggest thing.”
More than that, the Cowboys have competition at positions for the first time in Bristol’s return to the sidelines. He’s in his 30th year of coaching football at Plateau Valley, but this is his fifth season in his third stint.
At the start of preseason practice, he even faced the dilemma of too many backs in his single-wing offense, where a tailback serves as the quarterback. He needs to shift skill players to new positions, which in this case is a welcome change.
“All of a sudden, we are faced with a fair amount of depth in the backfield and some competition, and the kids are responding to it well,” he said. “We have three guys who can play quarterback, and we’re playing around with ideas of how to use the other two.”
The tailback/quarterback mix includes senior Hunter Bagett, who took most of the snaps last season. He completed 46 of 94 passes for 714 yards and four touchdowns. The other two are sophomore Joseph Heaton and freshman Tekoah Guedes, both of whom are characterized as versatile by Bristol.
The Cowboys have a few players who got time on the offensive and defensive lines, such as 155-pound junior Triston Lampshire, who has played center and guard on offense and end and tackle on defense.
“He’s a pretty smart kid. He knows the scheme and what he’s supposed to be doing,” Bristol said.
Senior Alex Cox started at end on both sides of the ball, senior Lane Castro started at end on offense, and junior Solomon DeVera got a few starts at nose guard and led the team in tackles with 53. But that’s about it for experience up front.
Bristol may have to move a few skill players to the line. For example, junior Chris Miller, a 190-pound fullback, could move to guard.
The defense also returns experience with sophomore Tanner Bagett and Miller at linebacker and Castro at safety. Tanner Bagett’s 47 tackles were second on the team.
Bristol said the Plateau Valley coaches took a long, hard look at everything they were doing, and “revamped a bunch of stuff.” He added they simplified their play calling on both sides of the ball.
There’s no doubt in Bristol’s mind the Cowboys will be better this season. In addition to being more experienced, they had better turnout in the weight room during the offseason, better attendance at football camps, and several players went out for the track team and improved their speed.
“I think we’re going to be better equipped to play the game,” Bristol said. “The kids kind of feel, too, it’s time to switch out of pure survival mode, and we want to start becoming a competitive program again ... You look for the things you can build a program on, and I think we’re seeing some of those come to fruition.”