River Valley High School’s football team had a good season in 2012, reaching the Division IV quarterfinals.
The Dust Devils had just six seniors and were stocked with underclassmen. That led coach Terry Staggs to believe that the team would be even better in 2013.
Thus far, Staggs’ theory has been correct.
River Valley, located in Mohave Valley near the Colorado River in northwest Arizona, has jumped to a 5-1 record and is close to being unbeaten after a narrow 21-17 loss to perennial D-IV power Yuma Catholic on Sept. 20.
Staggs likes his second tour of duty as River Valley’s head coach better than his first. He led the Dust Devils in 2008 and 2009, switched to offensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011 and returned as head coach in 2012. He is a former player at nearby Mohave High in Bullhead City.
“We have played very well this season. Our defense has looked really strong,’’ Staggs said.
River Valley has given up just 56 points and scored 212. There have been three shutouts and one other game with a single touchdown surrendered.
The team has come up with 11 interceptions, five by Brady Viles, and recovered about a half-dozen fumbles. There have been 29 sacks, nine by junior nose tackle Lance Phillips and five by senior lineman Jason Marino.
Inside linebackers Jacob Lee and Jesse Smith also have made big contributions, averaging 11.2 and eight tackles per game, respectively.
“There have been times when we have given our offense a short field with the turnovers, and that really helps us out,’’ Staggs said.
The team is more cohesive this season and that has been helped by bonding during strength and conditioning sessions.
“We have a great strength and conditioning program and the guys have really bought into it,’’ Staggs said.
The leaders on offense are quarterback Derrik Advocate and running back Brandon Long. Advocate is a dual threat with close to 1,000 combined yards, and Long has rushed for 1,087 yards and 13 TDs, the third straight season with more than 1,000 yards on the ground.
The team usually looks to run the ball first. That is due to the development of the offensive line. There are three juniors up front, Staggs said, who took their lumps as sophomores but now are better off for the experience and learning how to play.
This week, the Dust Devils travel to Wickenburg. The Wranglers are 2-4, but that record is deceptive, according to Staggs, having been in some close games and coming up with a big 21-20 win at Parker, a tough place to play for visiting teams.
After the Wickenburg game, there is a showdown next week with Goodyear Estrella Foothills, which also has been playing well. That game will be at River Valley.