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Monsters Set to Open WSFL Season

The Fighting Gila Monsters’ first test in 2013 may be a shortened preseason. “We usually have more time,” said John O’Mera, Eastern Arizona College head football coach. “It’s challenging with only three weeks to get ready.” Gila Monsters football kicks off Saturday, when EAC hosts the Scottsdale Artichokes. The game gets under way at 7:00 p.m. at John T. Mickelson Field.

At the beginning of the summer, Western States Football League coaches instituted a new schedule, two playoff rounds and a championship. Gone are the early-season fluff games. “It’s always scary at this level,” O’Mera said. “You get a new team every year, so you don’t know what you have until they go to battle. It’s how will they respond in battle that will make your season.” In the only scrimmage this year, EAC went to Pima Community College last Friday and had a solid outing. “We got 60 plays in, which was good,” O’Mera said. “I was happy with what we did, but we have a ways to go. We even had seven or eight pass completions, so that was good for us.”

Offensive architect for the Gila Monsters is assistant coach Bob O’Mera, who will once again run the wishbone. Giving him a hand with the offense is Michael Nagy, James Pryor and Howard Stearns.

The Gila Monsters’ bread and butter has been a stingy defense since John O’Mera has been at the helm. “We always bring a strong package,” John O’Mera said. “It looks like we have another talented group this year.” An athlete the coach is really high on is defensive back Chris Sanders from Atlanta. “He’s the real deal,” John O’Mera said. “He’s one of those players that can make a big difference in the game.” The assistant coaches leading the defense are Jeff Roebuck, Anthony Redding, Tobe Smith and Josh Owen.

Even though last year’s team saw a number of big out-of-state names, the team failed to come together with the kind of chemistry needed to have a winning season — the only losing in John O’Mera tenure. This year, the talent is Arizona homegrown. Heading up that list is defensive tackle Marion Peat (6 feet, 3 inches, 345 pounds) from Corona Del Sol High School and a defensive lineman for Nebraska last year. Peat’s father played for the Phoenix Cardinals for six years and the L.A. Raiders. “Derrick Maultsby — we are proud of him on campus,” John O’Mera said. “He’s a center-guard, and we are looking for him to do big things for us.” Maultsby is from Scottsdale. Alfred Tukuafu is a 6 foot, 4 inch, 342-pound offensive lineman from Utah who just returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “He’s another big-time recruit both on and off the field,” John O’Mera said. “He also speaks Spanish fluently. We are excited about him.” Two other linemen of note are Josh Smith (6 feet, 1 inch, 300 pounds) from Chinle High School, who will be on the offensive line, and Isaiah Anderson (5 feet, 10 inches, 263 pounds) from Bylas, who played for Fort Thomas last year on the defensive line.

At quarterback is Ker Sean Wilson, from Columbia, S.C., who has stepped up into the starting position for this first game of the season. But John O’Mera said last year’s backup QB, Brice Queener, is right on the edge to challenge for the starting position. “This year, we have some throwing talent,” John O’Mera said ,“and we will.” He added that the Gila Monsters are deep at running back, but no one has stepped up to take the starting position.

By Jay David Murphy sportsguy@eacourier.com

Eastern Arizona Courier