EDITOR’S NOTE • This is one in a series of previews of Utah’s high school football programs. They will run throughout the summer leading up to the 2014 regular season, which begins Aug. 21.
Box Elder Bees
Many coaches like a nice balance between seniors, juniors and underclassmen on the roster. Box Elder’s head man, Robbie Gunter, admits that his squad is a bit heavy on the senior side.
That could be a good thing for the Bees, who lost in the first round of the 2013 Class 4A playoffs to Wood Cross.
“I felt like, going into the playoffs, that we were playing good,” Gunter recalled. “Woods Cross kind of jumped on us and kicked our butt.”
The returnees for Box Elder are using that loss, among other things, as motivation for the new year.
“We’ve got a senior class that really wants to compete,” Gunter said.
The problem for the Bees is that many of those critical seniors are being used both offensively and defensively. It’s a situation that the coach hopes will be gradually resolved with the development of younger players throughout the season — but one that might be quickened if Box Elder suffers an early injury.
Conner Udy, the Bees’ quarterback, is a prime example.
Udy led the team in interceptions a year ago and, ideally, would just be switching sides to replace graduated signal-caller Shad Watson. But Udy will have to pull double-duty, at least at the beginning, while other defensive backs are developed.
“We have to use him both ways,” Gunter said. “We’re going to work on that.”
Likewise, senior Riley Burt (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is a go-to player for the Bees at running back, but will also play cornerback. Other key cogs on the line include big senior Zak Keleikini (6-1, 300) and Cooper Parson (6-2, 245) at offensive tackles.
On defense, Box Elder will move two-year defensive end starter Darius McFarland (6-2 250) to linebacker for his senior year and junior Bryant Tingey will help out the linebacking corps.
Naturally, Tingey will also see time at running back.
“He’s got a good nose for the ball,” Gunter said of this two-way starter.
Last year • 6-5 (4-2 in Region 5; lost in first round of playoffs)
Key returner • Senior Conner Udy, (6-3, 195) will take over at QB, but must still play DB as the team’s youngsters develop.
Player to watch • Junior Bryant Tingey (5-11, 190) is expected to be one of the Bees’ best linebackers, and will also play RB.
Biggest hole • Depth is the Bees’ major concern across the board. Injuries at almost any position will mean turning to an inexperienced bench for the remedy.
Need to know • Quarterback Udy can throw the ball, but Gunter’s receiving corps will count on the healthy return of senior Luis Pena to help guide the other wideouts along. Pena tore his achilles’ tendon two game into the 2013 campaign.