By JJ Gerlach | JJGerlach@alamosacitizen.com
THROUGHOUT the start of preseason practice, few players have shined brighter than junior running back Shammah Luani.
Luaini showed his talent at the end of last season when he put up a total of 201yards in the final two games of the season, against Colorado School of Mines and Fort Lewis. Now the Grizzlies will rely on him to establish a running game in 2022, starting with Western New Mexico on Sept. 3.
The tailback from Kimball High in Tracy, Calif., originally committed to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, playing there from 2018-2019 before transferring to play for the Grizzlies in 2020. He’ll be relied on heavily this upcoming season after the departure of senior running back and leading rusher Tyreik Campbell.
“I’m expecting a big turnaround for the program. I think that we got a lot of key points that we’re working on from last year that we were down on, but it looks pretty
hopeful this year.” Luani said after practice this week.
The Grizzlies had a poor season overall last year compared to other Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference teams. They gained 1,500 yards total, or 140 yards per game, to finish ninth out of 10 in the RMAC for team rushing yards.
When asked what his goals were going into the season, Luani said, “We want to be the best team that we can be. Execute, no personal fouls, and to play mistake-free football.”
Avoiding penalties will be a key emphasis for the Grizzlies. Last year they finished with 96, giving up a combined total of 900 yards and putting them once again at ninth in their conference.
No team can avoid all penalties. However, this is a staggering number for Adams State and is a big reason for their struggles last season.
Execution was also a woeful area last year. The Grizzlies got to the red zone only 30 times last season and converted those opportunities 75 percent of the time. The Grizzlies’ red zone defense was also down, as opponents scored on 47 out of 56 drives.
The red zone, which is the term for any area in your opponents’ 20-yard line and closer, is a place where games are won or lost in all levels of football. You want to be able to capitalize on offense and defensively when getting that close to the end zone. And if you can stop a team in the red zone, it can be a huge morale boost.
The first 2022 opponent for the Grizzlies, Western New Mexico University, also had struggles last year and just like Adams State finished with a 1-10 record.
Getting an early road win against a team that also struggled last year could be a big change for the Grizzlies. Western New Mexico gave up 175 rushing yards a game last year.
The opener could be just what Luani and Adams State need to get the season started with a win.