Curt McElroy had his blueprint ready when he was hired as Tonopah’s head football coach in 2004.
“No. 1, we make the game fun for our kids,” he said. “Our offensive scheme with what we do is sort of like sandlot football — pass and catch. The kids love that offense. Once they get going, it’s easy to learn.”
So easy, in fact, that the Muckers have gone from the bottom in eight-man football to a feared Class 1A Southern League power that now talks of a dynasty.
And it’s been done in only four years.
“Our overall goal is to be at Arbor View High School, where we lost the first one (in 2006) and win (state) there,” McElroy said. “Build a dynasty — that’s our whole motto.”
After a dreadful 2-7 season in 2003, McElroy was brought on board.
Tonopah then went 6-5 in 2004 and 7-3 in 2005.
In 2006, the Muckers went 10-2 but were blown out 56-14 by Pahranagat Valley in the Class 1A state title game.
Last season, they did the blowing out — 54-20 over Carlin to win that elusive 1A state crown and cap an 11-1 coronation.
Tonopah hasn’t lost a league game since 2003.
“I spent some time building this program,” McElroy said. “No. 1, we want to go undefeated in (the Southern League). We want to win the state championship. We work hard on that every single year. Our kids really believe they’ll be back in the state championship game.”
When McElroy first took over the program, Tonopah had 17 players.
Now, it has 40 — 25 of whom are returning lettermen, including five returning starters on each side of the ball.
At the forefront of that group, McElroy said, could be senior linebacker/fullback Mike Dolfin, a college prospect who last season piled up 74 tackles, two sacks, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six pass breakups.
Also key will be dual-threat senior quarterback/defensive back Scott Thibodeaux, who last season ran for 1,214 yards and 24 touchdowns and threw for 1,197 yards and 15 scores.
Thibodeaux will be at the controls of an intricate shotgun option offense that relies on zone blocking, which McElroy said can sometimes look more like a pistol scheme.
“He’ll go in with about 60 plays,” McElroy said of Thibodeaux, who was picked off only four times in 2007.
McElroy said the Muckers are ahead of where they were at this point last year on offense.
That’s not what other 1A Southern League teams want to hear, considering Tonopah scored 76 touchdowns and averaged more than 7 yards per snap.
The Muckers’ 3-3-2 defense was just as explosive, coming up with more interceptions (26) than sacks (23).
“I think we’re going to be right in the middle of the pack again, in the hunt for a state championship,” McElroy said. “We have as good a chance to be the state champions as anybody else. Right now, we’re on course for that.”