The Dora Coyotes lost several players from last season’s state championship team, and they’re comfortable with dropping below the radar of most teams this season.
“We have a young group, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “We are thought of as the underdogs and I don’t mind that. I think we’ll surprise some people.”
Dora defeated Temple Baptist 80-65 to win the school’s first boys title since 1970.
The Coyotes went on a tear to end the season, reeling off 23 straight victories. The Coyotes last loss came on to the Logan Longhorns which dropped to 4-3 before the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference Tournament.
The winning streak is at 23, but it is a much different-looking team than the team that won the state title. The Coyotes lost seven players to graduation, including leading scorers Matt Carpenter, Chris Rolston, Layton Belcher and Bryce Hays. Dora does not have any seniors this season.
The Coyotes have five returning varsity players, but only two returning varsity players saw playing action, Travis Belcher and Clayton Stokes.
“He was a great perimeter threat,” Thatcher said. “He shot a high percentage and got good looks. He’s going to have to learn to get open. He won’t have Matt in the inside to help get him open.”
Travis Belcher, a junior, played in the perimeter last season, but he may need to give Dora some inside help this season.
“We won’t have the size we have last year, but we have more speed,” Travis Belcher said. “We had so much size inside with Matt and Layton and I had some open looks last year. I’m going to have to penetrate and play in the inside this year.”
Stokes will be the starting point guard this season. Other major contributors to the team will be Tyler Wilhoit, J.R. Gonzales, Brent Hays, Efrian Lopez, Johnny Lopez, according to Thatcher.
“Tyler shoots the ball well from mid-range,” Thatcher said. “He was known as a player who had one move in the inside last year. He’s been working hard on his inside game. J.R. is a very talented player who shoots well from the inside and outside. He’s going to be versatile.”
Dora tips off its season against the Eunice Cardinals at on Tuesday in Eunice. The junior varsity games for the boys and girls begin at 4:30 p.m. followed by the varsity games.
“This year is going to be different because I have to control the ball and give them (Dora players) some good passes,” Stokes said. “I’m comfortable with the offense. We’re going to do pretty good. We’re going to prove everybody wrong.”