The Nucla Mustangs’ quest toward a Division A Eight-Man state title begins Friday evening when Nucla will host Kanab, Utah’s Abundant Life Academy at 7 p.m.
Currently, Epright has 15 players attending practices; eight of those players are in their senior year. On the offensive side of the ball, the Mustangs have three returning starters. To make up for their lack of a seasoned quarterback, the team looks to be creative in its formations and play calling.
“We don’t have a player that has previously played quarterback,” Epright says. “We are looking at the single wing formation and other passing formations that eliminate the need for a skilled quarterback.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs will see the return of four starters who will operate a base defense, offering a variety of different assignments and stunts to cover the field as the game goes on.
“I am really excited about the work ethic and how hard the kids are working right now,” says Epright.
While this is his first year as a head coach, Epright has been coaching most of his life. He has coached basketball for almost 15 years at various locations, along with baseball for 10 years and football for over five years.
Of the time he has spent with the team so far (practice started on Aug. 16), Epright says, “The previous coach did a great job of instilling hard work in them and that makes my job a whole lot easier. They are kids that want to be there and are willing to work hard.”
After this weekend’s game against Abundant Life Academy, the Mustangs will take on Blanding High School at home on Sept. 4. They then continue competing against Utah schools with a game in Moab on Sept. 18.
Nucla visits neighboring rivals Norwood on Oct. 1 and then travels to Sorenson Ranch on Oct. 9. The final two regular season games will be against Dove Creek at home on Oct. 14 and at Plateau Valley on Oct. 23. The road to the state championship will begin on Oct. 30 when playoff games begin.
“Right now, the biggest thing we are trying to do is get tradition back into this program,” Epright says. “We are emphasizing a total team concept and we are setting our goals to a level that we hope we can accomplish.”
Anyone who isn’t familiar with eight-man football should look forward to an open and speedier game in comparison to the mainstream 11-man game.
“Speed is a big factor, both offensively and defensively,” he says. “There are a lot of things you can do to counteract what the other team is doing. Maybe what’s most important is that you have eight solid players on the field. If you don’t, the other team can exploit your weaknesses pretty quick.”
Overall, though, Epright is excited about his team’s chances this year.
“It has been a great start and we are having a good time. The team is gelling together really well and we are going to have a great year,” says Epright.