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Faith Lutheran secondary takes center stage as football begins

The high was 110 degrees Monday as aides wheeled out enormous barrels if water. Players hooted and hollered their way from the locker room to the field and snapped on their helmets before breaking into position groups. Coaches’ yells appeared to be in midseason form.

Football is back in Southern Nevada.

Non-contact practice opened for high schools Monday, and with it the expectations that come with a new season. Faith Lutheran’s expectations are high for 2018, and that all started with the first practice.

“Officially getting back out here with the boys in helmets today gives the picture of real football,” coach Vernon Fox said. “We’re excited.”

The Crusaders made 10 interceptions as a team last year, a number they will look to expand on with a revamped secondary.

Returning to Faith Lutheran are seniors Taimani McKenzie and Keagan Touchstone, who combined for half the team’s picks. McKenzie figures to become a four-year starter, and Touchstone is tied for the school record with 11 career interceptions, though he is expected to play primarily at receiver. Seniors Myles Price and Yasha Chapman also figure to factor into the game plan.

But help arrived in the form of two California transfers: seniors Greg Oliver and Sebastian Burke. Oliver is of particular interest to Las Vegas football fans, as he was the top player in the Class of 2019 when he was dismissed from Bishop Gorman before last season.

“It was great coming back to my city,” Oliver said. “I knew Faith was on the uprise awhile ago.”

Fox knows the importance of a strong secondary. An NFL safety for eight seasons, he preached the necessity of not just having four good defensive backs, but enough depth to keep the offense guessing.

“We’re excited about what those guys offer us, just veteran players that have a tremendous upside and talent level and leadership, so on that back end we feel real confident,” Fox said. “I know that a lot of weight that falls on your shoulders on that back end. You have to be great in the run game, and in the pass game, and we feel like we have a lot of guys that have that ability.

“When you can shift guys in there, it helps out.”

The secondary may be the strong point of the defense, but sophomore linebacker Ma’a Gaoteote is committed to USC, and senior defensive end David Heckard has offers from major conference schools. A bevy of other talented players surround them.

“This one, for sure, talent-wise is like no other,” McKenzie said comparing this year’s team to past squads. “I think we’re already clicking this early in the season, so just moving forward, just imagine what we can do.”

Contact Justin Emerson at jemerson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.

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