Prep football preview

Chieftains and new coach show winning attitude

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, Aug. 25, 2011

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This year the story surrounding the Shiprock football team could be the Chieftain's coach.

That's because his name happens to be Don Story.

The scoop behind Story actually started in 1966 when he was named the head basketball coach in Norwood, Colo., and four years later took over the school's football program.

Since then he's coached football for than 25 years with the last 11 at Delores, Colo. In his tenure at Delores, the Bears made it into the state playoffs in eight of the last 10 years including two appearances in the state semifinal.

"Lately I've been used to winning and it shouldn't be any different with this group," Story said last Friday after a scrimmage against Red Mesa. "What I see here is we have high quality kids with great attitudes.

"Coach (Richard) Ballard before me did a really good job and established a base here and we're just going to build on that," he said. "I don't think I need to turn anything around because these kids know how to win the last couple of years and I just want them to improve on that and keep it going."

Last year under Ballard, the Chieftains started the season on an ominous note by losing five non-district games before running the tables in District 1-3A.

Their signature win came at the end of the regular season as they defeated Zuni, 37-36, which ultimately decided the district championship.

"They started the season losing five straight," Story said. "But they came right back and won their last five games and the kids are very proud of that.

"That shows they have a good attitude," he said. "They didn't get themselves down and when district came around they did fine."

Shiprock's run through league play last year involved 13 seniors who graduated last May. And although they were a big part of the program's success, Story said he'll have other kids to replace them.

"We lost of lot of players, but I have some returning kids that got a lot of quality time last year," he said.

Junior running back Alex Benally and junior quarterback Adam Begaye are two of those players, albeit both players played different positions last season.

"Basically most of the starters from last year were seniors so we have some big shoes to fill," Begaye said. "We have a young team so we have to start picking things up.

"We got a new coach this year and I think it'll be awhile before we get used to the new system," he added, "but with each week we should get better."

As an offensive-minded coach, Story said the Chieftains will run a double-wing system "with a lot of misdirection where we'll try to slice you outside."

"Most of our passes will be play action as opposed to a shotgun or a spread set," he said. "I am more of a run first, set up a play action and that's what I've always done."

And with the running backs that he has this year, Story feels that the Chieftains should run the tables again.

"We're not as fast as I would like us to be at the line of scrimmage, but we have good size," Story said. "I think the strength we'll have this year is at the skills position and they're all juniors. The running backs are going to be good this year and we also have a couple of good receivers."

On the other side of ball, Story said the Chieftains have experience and should be solid with Russell Tallbull serving as defensive coordinator.

"Coach Tallbull is doing a good job and I have some continuity in that department," Story said. "I've got a good coaching staff with five guys and they're all doing a great job."

Against Red Mesa last Friday night, Shiprock's defense highlighted the scrimmage as the Redskins had a hard time moving the ball.

"The defense did a nice job tonight," Story said. "We tackled very well so that was a good start, but we're still making some strides offensively.

"This is a whole new offense for them because I thought we blew two, three touchdowns," he added. "We definitely saw some things that we need to clean up."

On Saturday, Shiprock will open up the season at McCurdy, a team that Story is unfamiliar with.

"All I know is we're headed to Española," the Shiprock coach said. "I heard they are a small school, but they have a good program."

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