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Chieftains go on the road to face Zuni


SHIPROCK − Looking to attain a winning record for the first time in nearly 18 months, the Shiprock High School football team will be on the road Thursday night to face Zuni.

The Chieftains come into the game with a record of 2-2 on the season after throttling Monument Valley, Utah by a final of 60-8. That win, which was highlighted by a 227-yard, five touchdown performance by senior Jarvis Begay, has the team feeling a sense of confidence as they continue to rebuild a program that was devastated by the pandemic.

"It's been a very long road for sure for a lot of these kids and for the program in general," said Chieftains head coach Anthony Clah. "The feeling is very different now. You can see that the kids are getting it about working hard and seeing that work pay off."

After opening the current season with a 12-7 loss last month on the road at Tohatchi, the Chieftains earned their first win of the season the following week at home against Crownpoint. After a loss in week three of the season to Cuba, Shiprock bounced back with the rout over the Cougars.

Shiprock's football team suffered through a winless season last year, losing all nine of their games by an average margin of 47 points per game. During the pandemic, the Chieftains played a limited schedule in the spring of 2021, winning three of five games, against Newcomb, Cuba and Crownpoint.

And while the team is still dealing with low numbers in participation, Clah is seeing those numbers continue to rise.

"We definitely have some confidence and experience coming through, though they're not all the way there yet," Clah said. "Right now, we've got about 40 kids on the roster, so the numbers are coming up. Now it's just a case of getting more experience."

Begay ran for more than 150 yards and had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown last week for the Chieftains in the win over Monument Valley. Along with solid performances from sophomores Ethan Howe and Freedom Cobb, as well as seniors Cudia Tihe and Logan Pioche, Shiprock's defense managed four turnovers in the romp at Chieftain Stadium.

"I think the idea is getting more and more concrete that the work does pay off," Clah said. "Now as coaches, we just have to keep that mindset going. Nothing is going to be handed to us."

Begay has accounted for 770 all-purpose yards for the Chieftains, scoring 11 touchdowns through the first four games of the season.

The game against Zuni marks the first time these two teams have met on the gridiron in nearly seven years. The Chieftains pounded the Thunderbirds 61-8 on Oct. 23, 2015 and have won four straight over Zuni dating back to 2012.

The Thunderbirds (1-3) have lost two in a row and are coming off a 32-0 loss on the road against Hopi, out of Keams Canyon, Ariz. Zuni posted their only win this season in their second game of the campaign, topping Cuba at home by a final of 28-6. The following week, Cuba turned around to beat Shiprock by a score of 29-12.

"Zuni runs a few plays that we've seen before, but they're a tough opponent and they'll come out ready for us, especially at their home," Clah said.

For more information on the Shiprock football team, check out their official page at Maxpreps.com.