The banner streak has ended. 2008, 2009, 2010 ... and that's it for now.
For the first time since any of its current players entered the program, Juan Diego football is not preparing a title defense. For once, the Soaring Eagle is looking up in Class 3A - looking to chase longtime runner-up Hurricane - after not even making it to Rice-Eccles Stadium last season.
Actually, senior linebacker Dakota Cox says, it's quite liberating when you get used to it.
"It's a restart for us - it's refreshing," he says. "It takes a little bit of the pressure off. We just go out and play."
Don't be fooled: One of the state's perennial powers isn't going about its business any differently. Juan Diego could run the clinic on ball control. The team graduated its top backs from last year, but returns three linemen and quarterback Nick Markosian.
With that core, the Soaring Eagle feels comfortable offensively.
"We still have the same gameplan, and we're generally pretty young but our guys are hungry to compete," Markosian says. "We know we can't get complacent. We're going to have to work our hardest to get there again."
There's two sides to the defense: On one hand, Cincinnati-committed Cox and potential DI prospect Kalei Kauha'aha'a should be a force in the linebacking corps plaing behind top-flight nose tackle Jeff Ika.
But Juan Diego only returns three true starters to the team (Kauha'aha'a briefly transferred to Logan last season). The secondary and pass-rushing elements of the team are still coming together, made more difficult by the sudden death of Adam Colosimo, who was penciled in as one of this season's breakout stars.
Losing the rising junior shook the team to its core - coach John Colosimo is his uncle. But Cox says out of tragedy, the Soaring Eagle aims to find triumph.
"It's definitely hard with the passing of Adam," Cox says. "But we've become more of a family. Our team unity is really great, and we think it will help us achieve anything."
LAST YEAR: 10-2, lost in second round to Spanish Fork.KEY RETURNER: Dakota Cox, senior, linebacker/tight end. Bound for Cincinnati, Cox will give the Soaring Eagle an edge as one of the rare Division I commits in 3A - and he'll also be a factor in the passing game.PLAYER TO WATCH: Kalei Kauha'aha'a, senior, linebacker/running back. A natural athlete and son of a college assistant, his coaches expect he'll be a stud on defense and a possible "home run-hitter" in the backfield.BIGGEST HOLE: Although many 3A teams lean on the run, Juan Diego's passing defense unit - including rushers and those in the secondary - will be mostly new and possibly suspect.NEED TO KNOW: Juan Diego has been through a great tragedy this summer losing a beloved teammate, but it seems the Soaring Eagle is channeling that into becoming a better team that could be back in the title game.SEASON OPENER: Visits Salem Hills. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.
Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton
July 26: Hunter/Park City
July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills
July 28: Davis
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon