Early games to test Page, new coach optimistic
The Page football team lost some of its top players last season to graduation.
The Sand Devils, who finished 10-2 overall one year ago, lost 17 such players.
In addition to those seasoned players, Page also had to replace second-year coach Mitchell Stevens during the offseason.
Despite those losses, the focal point remains the same as Page is looking to win the 3A North Region and ultimately make a deep run in the state playoffs under new head coach Leland Billie.
“I waited for this time for a long time,” said Billie, who served as an assistant coach at Page for three seasons. “I spent some time in Holbrook and Winslow and then I ended up here. Things kind of just worked out and I accepted the head coach job.
“Ever since that day, these boys have been working hard,” he added. “They’ve been committed to the summer workouts and our summer camps so I’m really excited with what the season will bring to us.”
With a tough preconference schedule and having won the region title the last two years, Billie said the upcoming year is going to be a defining season.
“People have a target on us once we hit region play but we’ve got to survive our first five games,” he said. “We’ll just see where those first five games will take us.”
The Sand Devils open the season at Payson on Aug. 23 before they play Florence at the Walkup Skydome on the NAU campus on Aug. 30.
Page will travel to Winslow on Sept. 6 before closing out the nonconference schedule hosting Snowflake on Sept. 13 and traveling to Valley Christian on Sept. 20.
“I don’t know if there’s another 3A team that goes through that sort of stretch,” Billie said. “It’s going to be tough. We’ve been preaching to them that those first five games is going to define us as a team. We’ll see where we line up against these big boys.”