Scrimmage Good Gauge Of Strengths, Weaknesses

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Longhorn head football coach Josh Anderson and defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes reply with identical answers when asked what the preseason scrimmage against Camp Verde, held Aug. 22 on PHS field, meant to the PHS team.

Both say, "It helped us work the kinks out."

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Longhorn defenders Bryan Burke, Nick Johnson, Landis Quad and Mason Dacanay show the pursuit defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes is asking from his charges.

Among the twists and curves Hayes identified to correct are "pursuit angles, hustling to the ball and gang tackling."

Hayes also indicated he was not satisfied with his defenders' overall play and would focus this week on turning up the intensity.

Anderson said the defense and offense both had a good test in the scrimmage because "Camp Verde was a lot better than I thought they would be."

Overall, the third-year head coach left the scrimmage satisfied.

"I was very pleased with how we did," he said. "The best part about a scrimmage is coaches and athletes can see where immediate improvements need to be made, as well as how we are doing in other areas."

Anderson's practice goal this week is for the team "to be settled and ready for the first game" which will be at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 29 at Fountain Hills.

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Sophomore defensive back Westin Gibson (18) hauls down a Camp Verde ball carrier. In addition to playing defensive back, Gibson is a reserve quarterback.

"We still have a few plays to add, but not much," he said. "We're going to keep things as simple as possible this year and just let the kids line up and play, which they do very well."

In the scrimmage against Camp Verde no score was kept because Arizona Interscholastic Association rules prohibit formal tallies.

However, the Longhorn first team dominated during the evening behind the solid play of seniors Matt Wilson, Bryan Burke, David Carlen, Ridge Halenar, Tyler Savage and Shane Keith.

All have been starters since their sophomore year.

"That's the good thing about this group is they took some beatings (as sophomores) which has made them better," Hayes said.

During the scrimmage, it was obvious team depth has improved over last season and some of the younger players should be ready to step in whenever called upon.

"You can never replace Matt, Bryan, Carlen, Ridge, Savage or Shane because they are three-year starters," Anderson said. "But our backups are a lot stronger and more experienced than in years past.

"Our depth is also a lot better in all positions."

Although coaches traditionally don't opt to single out players for stellar play in preseason scrimmages, it was obvious to fans, boosters and onlookers that junior newcomer Mason Dacanay is a great addition to the Horns' offensive and defensive lines.

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Cody York (9), a 6-foot-2-inch, 170-pound slotback, breaks loose from a Camp Verde defender. Action took place during a preseason scrimmage held Aug. 22 in PHS stadium.

During the scrimmage, the 5-foot-10-inch, 297-pound right guard blocked well on offense, especially when releasing and going down field on breakaway runs.

He also held his own on the defensive line refusing to give ground, be trapped or influenced.

Also obvious during the about two-hour session was that the Longhorns have the biggest team in school history and possibly one of the largest in the 3A conference, maybe in the state.

The buffalos include Burke (227 pounds), Wilson (265 pounds), Logan Garner (232 pounds), Schaffer Keith (284 pounds), several large sophomores, and Dacanay.

The Longhorns debut at home at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5 against the Winslow Bulldogs, who last season, won the North region title.

During the regular season the Horns muzzled the Dogs 21-3 thanks in part to a standout defensive effort from Hayes' bandits.

Carlen, playing middle linebacker, turned in a monster game with 19 tackles and four sacks.

His performance could have Winslow coaches staying up late at night scheming methods of slowing the agile, mobile and hostile linebacker.

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