Hey, high school sports fans! Fielder here.
Summer's out, school's in, and we all know what that means: Football is back.
I know you don't know me, but you will. I'm the new print (and soon to be online) face of prep football in Southern Nevada. Review-Journal high school sports editor Damon Seiters has me checking out key matchups each week and reporting to him -- and then you -- on what to expect under the lights on Friday nights (and maybe some day games).
My buddies, Eric and Skeet, will help me gather the info during the week, and then I'll have it here for you every Friday in the R-J's Sports section. We can't be at every practice (there's only three of us, and, yeah, Skeet has a hard time pulling himself away from carving up bowls at the skate park), so we'll pick eight or so games to feature.
Sometimes you'll like what I have to say about your team. Sometimes you won't. But it's all in fun (and, hey, if I come down hard on you or your team, just prove me wrong on the field).
OK, here I go with Fielder's Choices:
• Reno at Palo Verde, 7 p.m. -- The big, bad Huskies from the north come down to Summerlin ... only to leave with their tails between their legs. Sure, Reno went 9-3 last season, but Palo Verde's only loss in 13 games came in the Sunset Region championship game to eventual state winner Bishop Gorman. The Panthers return four blazing-fast guys in their backfield: Chaz Thomas (1,053 yards, 18 touchdowns), Sidney Hodge (945 yards, 10 TDs), Tyrone Blake (902 yards, 12 TDs) and explosive Torin Harris, who's so faaaaaast he's headed to the University of Southern California next fall as a defensive back. On defense, Palo Verde has mighty tackle/linebacker Liloa Nobriga. Yeah, I can hear the Huskies whimpering all the way back to Reno: Palo Verde by 17.
• Valley at Del Sol, 7 p.m. -- Those teams in the 'burbs just keep getting stronger, and that's hard on some of the older inner-city schools, like Valley. Del Sol might have lost some key players from last year's 10-2 team, including lineman Pono Huihui, but the Dragons just reloaded. Saei Huihui, Pono's little bro', takes over at quarterback. Jon Kirschbaum is strong at linebacker and fullback, and at tight end they don't get better than last year's all-state first-teamer, Tim Lawson. New Vikings coach John Elwell will depend a lot on running back Kerwynn Williams. But, man, it's gonna be tough on Valley. The Dragons run away with this one: Del Sol by 29.
• Clark at Coronado, 7 p.m. -- Give it up for the Chargers; they snapped a 42-game losing streak last season and actually finished with three wins. Way to go, guys! Clark has Anthony Lotta back at QB and five seniors who started on the defense's front seven last year, including leading tackler Taylor Barrows. Coronado has a new coach (John Mannion), a new quarterback (Dane Cooper) and a new system. ... ("Jeopardy!" theme.) As much as I'd like to give this one to the Chargers, I can't -- sorry: Coronado by 8.
• Canyon Springs at Spring Valley, 7 p.m. -- This should be a good one. Maybe the best game of opening night. Canyon Springs went 9-2 last year; Spring Valley was 7-4. Both teams debut new coaches, with Chris Littmann at Canyon Springs and Kelly Murphy at Spring Valley. If you check this one out, keep an eye on Canyon Springs wideout DeShaun Stewart, who had 1,002 receiving yards last year -- as the team's No. 2 option! Dude has awesome hands, and he's fly on the fly. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are going from a spread offense to more of a traditional offense. One guy the Pioneers will have trouble getting around on both lines is Spring Valley's 320-pound Nate Holloway. I see a wild one here, with the roadie winning: Canyon Springs by 4.
• Eldorado at Arbor View, 7 p.m. -- OK, these teams had just three wins between them last year. Dog game, right? Maybe not, considering Arbor View, which had two of the three wins, brought up guys from a JV team that went 8-1 last season and has added Gabe Toney, a Shadow Ridge transfer who had 152 tackles last year. Eldorado has a new coach in Leon Evans, who led Desert Pines to the 2002 state championship game, so the Sundevils should have good direction. RBs Tone Gatewood and DeAndre Smith will lead the offense, with crazy-good athlete Charles White, a key player on the school's basketball team, giving football a serious try at wideout. If this is a dog game, it's only because the Aggies have too much for the Sundevils: Arbor View by 14.
• Desert Oasis at The Meadows, 7 p.m. -- There's a new kid on the football block. Welcome to our Friday night party, Desert Oasis. The Diamondbacks are a Class 4A independent this season, meaning they can't make the playoffs, and really, there'd be no chance of that happening. But the D-backs do have a few solid skill people, notably running back C.J. Hunt and receiver Elijah Mitchell. The Meadows returns 15 starters from last season's Class 2A state semifinal team. The only issue for the Mustangs in this game is how quickly freshman quarterback Gerard Martinez loses the jitters and meshes with his offense: The Meadows by 20.
• Sandy Valley at Henderson International, 4:30 p.m. -- This is a game of two small schools trying to get off to a good start in eight-man football. Sandy Valley might have no more than eight players suiting up (definitely no more than 12) after suffering injuries throughout training camp. Henderson International has more bodies -- 16 -- but 12 of them are freshmen. Sandy Valley's standout player is running back/safety Conner Luther; for Henderson International, it's running back/receiver Jay Sutorious. With so few players, Sandy Valley will get worn down early: Henderson International by 26.
• Fernley at Moapa Valley, 7 p.m. -- This one will get real ugly, real quick. Moapa Valley is coming off its first Class 3A state title since 2000, and the Pirates could be even better this year with 15 starters returning, led on offense by quarterback Max Jenkins and running back Brad Weiss. Fernley is coming off a solid 7-4 season, but ... nah, forget it. This one is all Pirates: Moapa Valley by 28.
So there you have the first Fielder's Choices. I hope you liked it and will check back next Friday for more previews. As they say in the texting world, TTYL.