SAN TAN VALLEY – The Combs football team became very good at adapting on the fly last season due to the chaos caused by the pandemic.
The Coyotes managed to scramble up some last-minute opponents after their original ones had to cancel and they also had to deal with sitting out a few weeks themselves. Combs had to sit out of few weeks when no one on the team actually had COVID, but because of contract tracing.
Head coach Travis Miller’s number one goal this season is to play as many games as possible.
“As a coach who dedicates hours and hours, I’d rather not have to cancel our football season or any games for stuff that doesn’t really involve us,” Miller said. “That cost us the playoffs last year. We missed games that we thought we could have won, and we ended up having to forfeit which then hurt our power point (ranking) and cost us the playoffs. We’d been building up to last year for a long time.”
Miller stated that the team’s additional goals are the same as every team in America, which is to have a winning season, make the playoffs and beat their rivals.
He added that the key to achieving those goals comes down to having an uninterrupted season.
The Coyotes finished with a 3-3 record last year and they went three weeks without a game from Oct. 9 to Oct. 31.
A downside this year for Combs is the gaping hole that’s been left at the running back position by Joey Jensen who led the team with 915 rushing yard and 13 touchdowns.
Miller stated that the running back position was wide open in early August as four Coyotes were all competing for the spot, and it was difficult to highlight one of them as them were all very similar physically.
“Whoever comes out of that battle is going to be relied on a lot,” Miller said. “You have to have a quality running game to win, you have to be able to run the ball to win.”
Other big play makers who graduated include Taniela Taunima, Jace Judd and Mason Brockman.
“We lost some big-time stuff,” Miller said. “We have a lot of young guys that are ready for the task, but I think we’ll probably shift more of our attention to our other strengths.”
One of the strengths Miller elaborated on is quarterback Tanner Hale. As a sophomore last season, Hale had a 51% completion rate with 763 passing yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also had 166 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
“Tanner’s unique,” Miller said. “He’s going into his second year as a varsity starter, but he’s been playing in our system since his youth days, since before he got into high school so he’s very familiar with what we do and he’s kind of been a leader through the system already for five years. … Hiss leadership and his ability has significantly improved so we’re a lot more comfortable in the ability to pass this year.”
Also returning for the Coyotes is Brodee Tucker was a big factor on defense. Tucker was third on the team with 30 tackles and had four sacks for 41 yards. Tucker is one of those players who seems to have been around forever as he’s made an impact on the program since he was a freshman.
Tucker will have some help in the secondary which returns in full as well as most of the defensive line.
“We’re definitely going to rely on Brodee,” Miller said. “He didn’t necessarily fly under the radar last year, but he had help when you have Bubba Taunima and Jace Judd, other teams were worrying about those guys. He’s finally a senior and he is athletic as heck, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s a massive lifter. He’s the kind of kid that if something goes down in the alleyway, you want Brodee on your side.”
If the Coyote can go through the season uninterrupted, they will be a top contender in Pinal County as they have a quality offensive line and a crafty and experienced quarterback.
“I’m excited,” Miller said. “Fingers crossed that we don’t have an interrupted season like last year.”