New leader, same confidence at Tohatchi

File photo
Tohatchi Cougars quarterback Brandon Lucero (21) on a keeper rushes around the left end against Thoreau’s defense during a game last year. In his final season, Lucero returns as one of the Cougars top players

FRUITLAND

The Tohatchi High School football team might have a new leader, but they’re going into the season with a familiar confidence.

Landoll Benally has taken over the program after serving as an assistant coach last season. While some adjustments will need to be made, he said the team is filled with confidence for the new season.

“I think we’ll be pretty competitive from the get-go,” Benally said. “The only team we probably have to worry about up to this point is Zuni; that’s going to be the team to beat.”

Tohatchi will compete in 3A District 1 with Crownpoint, Thoreau, Wingate, and Zuni, which is not all that different from the previous season with the exception of Wingate and Thoreau moving down into their class and district.

Benally said the team has committed to summer workouts and has been working on their conditioning and weight lifting.

He said he’s had about 18-20 kids on any given day show up for summer workouts.

“That’s way past our expectations for what we were aiming for,” he said. “Talking to other coaches in the area, they had less than 10. That’s a big plus for us. I think it’s just due to changes with the staff.”

Tohatchi returns a large core of their team. Senior Justin Leonard will lead the team as a wide receiver and quarterback; senior Elijah Tsosie returns to the defense and tight end; senior Christian Miller will return as a full back, and senior Farron Barney returns as a defensive tackle.

Benally said the team will also feature a core of juniors that will bring a large amount of experience.

“Looking at some of the veteran players coming back, the core veterans, they can lead the team this year,” Benally said. “They’ve all been playing for quite some time.”

Tohatchi did not make the state playoffs last season, but Benally said there is hope they will make an appearance.

He said the team has a few humps to go over but he’s sure they’ll come around.

“It’s just going the distance in all four quarters, that’s been our weakness in the past several years,” he said. “I’m pretty excited and first year’s always going to be a building block for all the boys coming in. It’s all about building and laying the foundation.”


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Categories: Football

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com or via cell at (505) 686-0769.