The Muckers at Tonopah High School kick off their 2023 season on Friday.
Head coach Duffy Otteson is looking to get his players back into the playoffs after having a down season in 2022, finishing in third place in the 1A Central league at 2-7.
The boys missed out on the playoffs for the second year in a row. But, this is a new season.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Week 1: vs. Lone Pine (8/25)
The Golden Eagles are based in California. They ended the 2022 season with an 8-4 record and a second-place finish among the freelance teams.
They were led by senior quarterback Christopher Dominguez. He finished the season with a 65% completion rate, throwing for 771 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Dominguez was also the team’s leading rusher with 1,322 yards on 154 carries with 19 touchdowns. He ran for more than 100 yards eight times.
Lone Pine will be returning with Perfecto Valdez and Ralph Enriquez Jr., the team’s second best rusher and the team’s top receiver respectively.
Valdez went for 605 yards and eight touchdowns on 92 carries, while Enriquez Jr. caught 24 passes for 385 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Golden Eagles’ 2022 season came to an end in the second round of the playoffs.
Week 2: At Trona (9/1)
The Trona Tornadoes finished the 2022 season with a 3-6 record.
They were a run-heavy team last season, calling a rush play on 81% of their plays. As a team, the Tornadoes ran the ball 188 times for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns.
Their leading rusher, senior Richie Horta, had 664 yards and seven touchdowns.
Max Parks and Izaias Horta are returning for Trona. They combined for 78 carries with 336 yards and six touchdowns.
Week 3: vs. Laughlin (9/8)
The Laughlin Cougars will be new to the 1A division this season. They moved down from the 2A division where they went a combined 0-16 over their last two seasons.
The Cougars previously played in the 1A division until the completion of the 2019 season.
They managed to score just 25 points in eight games last season. Thirteen of those points came in the opener against Indian Springs. Laughlin was shutout in six of their eight games during the 2022 season.
Week 4: At Virginia City (9/16)
The other Muckers team poured in a solid season during 2022. They finished 7-3 and secured the top spot in the 1A West league.
Virginia City lost in the second round of the 1A playoffs to the eventual state runners-up Spring Mountain.
The Muckers had two 1,000-yard rushers last season, one of which will be returning. Angel Hipolito led the team with 1,072 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore season, while former senior Blair Rankin rushed for 1,007 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Virginia City’s quarterback, Merrick Marotti, rushed for 12 touchdowns while also throwing 696 yards and seven touchdown passes.
Week 5: At Loyalton (California) (9/23)
The Loyalton Grizzlies are another team strictly based in California. They finished last season with a 7-4 record and lost in the second round of the state playoffs.
The team will be returning with their starting quarterback, Gus Petterson, who threw for 471 yards and had 11 combined touchdowns, their top two running backs in Case Emsoff and Jack June, and they will be returning with their leading receiver Adam Smeltzer from last season.
Emsoff and June combined for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns. Smeltzer hauled in 16 catches for 337 yards and four touchdowns.
Week 6: vs. Beatty (9/29)
The Hornets went 2-5 during the 2022 season and finished last in the 1A Central league with an 0-4 league record.
Tonopah got their first win of the season last year against Beatty in a crushing 64-24 victory.
Quarterback Drew Otteson rushed for 187 yards and had five touchdowns in the game.
The Hornets will have a new coach for the 2023 season in Levy Reed. He was previously an assistant coach under Rusty Anderson.
Tonopah has won the last two meetings against Beatty. The Muckers’ last loss was during the 2017 season.
Week 7: vs. Spring Mountain (10/6)
The 2022 state runners-up finished last season with a 9-3 record and 6-0 in the 1A South league.
This year, the Eagles will be playing in the Central league along with the Muckers, swapping places with former 1A Central participants Pahranagat Valley who went to the 1A South.
Spring Mountain lost their starting quarterback, and the team’s leading rusher, Lafear, who threw for more than 1,800 yards and had 21 passing touchdowns.
Lafear also ran the ball 96 times for 829 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Week 8: At Indian Springs (10/13)
The Thunderbirds finished in fourth place of the 1A South league during the 2022 season.
Indian Springs started the season off right with a win against Laughlin, but they then proceeded to lose their next four games.
The Thunderbirds have missed the playoffs in each of the last 10 seasons dating back to their last appearance in 2013.
This season will be the first meeting between the two teams since Tonopah defeated Indian Springs 68-34 in the 2017 season.
Week 10: At Round Mountain (10/26)
The top-heavy Knights will be replacing key players in their offense for the 2023 season.
They finished in fourth place in the 1A Central league last year with a 3-6 record. Only Beatty was a worse team in league play.
Round Mountain was led by seniors Meyjil McArthur and Gary Svoboda.
McArthur had team-highs in rushing yards (172) and receiving yards (376), while Svoboda was second on the team in receiving yards with 356.
The two players combined for nine total touchdowns last year.
The team will be returning with both of their quarterbacks from last season in Gavin Banks and Nick Scraper. They each threw for over 500 passing yards.
That’s how the Muckers’ 2023 football season shakes out. Otteson will be looking to take his team back to the state playoffs and compete among the state’s best in the 1A division.
While the 1A Central league did get rid of the defending state champion Pahranagat Valley Panthers, they were replaced by the state’s runner-up team in Spring Mountain.
However, it still works for Tonopah because the 1A Central also saw Mineral County — the league’s other playoff representative in 2022 — leave the league and head to the 1A West.
This should open the door for the Muckers to jump up into the No. 2 Central seed.
Contact sports writer/editor Danny Smyth at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @_dannysmyth on Twitter.