Prep football preview: Layton Lancers
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.
Every game is the biggest game of the year. That's usually the case in the agonizingly-familiar Region 1 picture every fall, and Layton coach Jim Batchelor knows it. The Lancers and Batchelor believe their young talent, put to the test in 2013, has the ability to contend for a region championship after going 4-7 a year ago. Layton's defense returns seven starters who saw time as underclassmen a year ago, with the offense having four clear-cut starters back with as many as seven players who saw time.
"We were pretty young a year ago," Batchelor said, "so I'm hoping the kids who are returning can come back and have a year under their belts and really step up."
Replacing premier offensive talents like running back Davis Marriott and Jordan Jaramillo will be a tall task. Marriott rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, while Jaramillo had over 800 yards receiving and was one of Layton's top defensive backs. Batchelor said the program flirted with spread formations a year ago to better suit its personnel at the time, but once it reverted back to its standard two-back system, things were more familiar.
In 2014, Keoni Larsen will be one of the two backs to keep an eye out for.
"He's showed me promise," Batchelor said. "He's got more speed than Davis did and he's faster through the holes, and his ability to break away is impressive."
Julian Blackmon and Koy Cannon are two names that should star for the Lancers both ways, and Batchelor hopes their versatility and explosiveness can lead to big plays in the receiving game as well as in the defensive backfield.
"The two of them are definitely going to be guys producing for us," he said.
Senior-to-be Steel Roberts will get the first bite at the apple at the quarterback position. A starter at free safety a year ago, Roberts has earned the Week 1 start, Batchelor said, but added two sophomores, Taylor Katoa and Caleb Taylor, are showing the ability to run the offense.
"All of them are right there," Batchelor said. "They all have different strengths, but Steel's been in the program for four years now since he was a freshman. He's earned this."
Not surprisingly, the Lancers have their eye on a return trip to the postseason and a shot at winning Region 1. Batchelor thinks his kids can do it.
"In year's past, there's been one team that is solid at all three levels," he said. "I don't know if we have someone who is dominant at all three levels. I don't know if there's anyone who's a clear-cut favorite."
Last year • 4-7 (3-3 in Region 1)
Key returner • Wade Meacham (OL). At 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, Layton will have a sure-fire star on the offensive line, as Meacham has recently committed to Utah State. He played guard a year ago, but will be at his more natural spot of tackle in 2014.
Player to watch • Keoni Larsen (RB). The shoes vacated by Davis Marriott are big. But Batchelor thinks Larsen can be a 1,000-yard rusher in 2014 with his size, speed and breakaway ability.
Biggest hole • Offensive line. The Lancers return their center and Meacham from 2013, but have three other spots to fill. The success of implementing the new running backs will be contingent on how well the offensive line gels.
Need to know • Week 1 starting quarterback Steel Roberts started at free safety as a junior in 2013 and was the junior varsity quarterback.