MOHAVE VALLEY — Trust and compatibility.
Those are the foundations on which River Valley High School varsity football’s upcoming season will be built, if Jonathan Clark has any say in the matter. As the team’s head coach, he certainly does.
“Our biggest strength is our compatibility and trust in one another. The kids get along and genuinely like each other,” Clark said, noting that everyone feels the same about his assistants. “Personally, I love my staff.”
The inexhaustible mentor is approaching his third campaign as Dust Devils varsity coach; he also oversees the track and field team.
Among other RVHS football coaches expected to be on hand throughout the summer workouts and fall football season: Zach Regan, Tim Montgomery, Damon Martin, Shawn Holley, Anthony Marietta, Devin Hannah and Alex Dowling.
Clark and crew will oversee a roster of 40, of which a half-dozen are seniors; the team lost 17 players to graduation.
To help fend off COVID-19, the Dust Devils have been following Phase 2 safety guidelines from the Colorado River Union High School District. Everybody involved with lifting weights and practicing on field, which takes place at 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, gets his temperature checked beforehand, according to Clark.
“We are always spraying down the equipment and balls. We also minimize the amount of equipment used. Bare minimum out there, everything is non-contact drills,” he said.
“We are just trying to get them into shape right now while teaching a little football.”
Among the learning participants is a trio of offensive linemen: Dillan Montgomery, entering his third year at center, left tackle Ty Williams, and Jake Whalen, who is expected to start at right guard. Clark asserted they’re “role models and grinders” who “show up and show out daily.”
Three additional seniors have unique stories.
Trevor Walker, one of the Dust Devils’ best basketball players, is trying his hand at football — specifically at tight end. Said Clark: “He has great hands and fluid movements, and will only make us better.” Amaro Contrares probably will start at cornerback as he did last season, but also is competing at the quarterback spot. Meanwhile, Richard Vega — who was a running back at RVHS before moving to Maryland last year — has returned and likely will serve as a two-way player at linebacker and wide receiver. “Richard has sleeked up to be able to move quicker, and his hands have improved dramatically,” the head coach said.
Clark said the offensive line is studded with seniors who “pave the way to success.” He also expressed enthusiasm about the return of Johnny Delgado and Zach Hammett, who combined for half of the team’s points last year.
Conversely, the linebackers are a question mark and lack depth — no thanks to an off-field injury to Tanner Snipes and a pair of players who transferred. “The hope is that Tanner will be back by September,” Clark explained. “Until then, we develop other guys with a ‘next man up’ mentality.”
The coaching staff has been focused on the base installation for both offense and defense, while teaching the related concepts and individual drills. The Dust Devils take a break during the week of July 4, prior to their football camp slated for July 12-17 at Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse.
At that point, said Clark, “We will pick up the pace and add more wrinkles to our game.”
To kick off its regular-season schedule — barring restrictions due to coronavirus — RVHS will host Yuma Catholic on Aug. 21.
Will that opener mark the start of the Dust Devils’ trek to postseason action? Clark said his crystal-clear expectations are “to win the classroom” as well as emerge victorious on the gridiron.
“Looking at it from a long-term perspective, I feel we are a playoff team,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if we can see growth and maturity as the season goes along.”
To that end, the coach reiterated the importance of players having one another’s back and maintaining trust.
“Teams like that will play for each other and lay it on the line,” added Clark.