Last season was a resurgence of sorts for Judge Memorial and for James Cordova in particular.
In what was an exciting season for the fanbase, the program rebounded from two years of pure turmoil, issues with their field, a heated quarterback controversy and a change in offense to make the playoffs, all while winning seven of 11 games.
Heck, the Bulldogs even got a home game out of the deal, even if Cedar walked into their place and beat them.
Now comes the hard part, which is sustaining the momentum and even taking further steps to reclaim a spot amongst the traditional Class 3A powers.
It won't be easy. Cordova loses 22 - count 'em, 22 - senior starters from his roster. He lost his defensive coordinator to Bingham High, and will take over defensive responsibilities for the first time in four seasons.
The talent, however, is there. Kaden Ellis and Michael Perry will compete for the starting quarterback spot. Both are unique in what they bring to the table. Perry is the better thrower, Ellis thebetter runner and all-around athlete.
"They both do different things very well and they both know the offense," Cordova said. "Kaden has a lot of experience. He was one of the few sophomores last season to get a lot of playing time. He knows the program and the system and he is versatile player."
Perry has had a great summer at various camps, and will look to experience a breakout season. If either can run Cordova's flexbone offense, a heavy run-oriented attack, Judge's defense will become more effective.
It's likely that the linebacker corps will be amongst the best in the state. However, if the Bulldogs can't compensate for their youth, and can't get good play in the trenches, this team may be in for quite a few growing pains.
"We will combat our inexperience by being a technically sound football team," Cordova said. "The talent is there, but it's still a little scary having to rely on so many younger guys."
LAST YEAR: 7-4, lost in first round to Cedar City.KEY RETURNER: Pat Neville, senior, linebacker. The middle linebacker is moving from the strong side, where he played last year. He's a three-year starter. He's strong, athletic and will be counted on to lead the entire defense and to be the primary play caller on that side of the ball. PLAYER TO WATCH: Sosefo Falmaka, senior, defensive end. The senior will be a mainstay as a 6-foot-3 lineman. Weber State has shown interest, although the Wildcats haven't offered yet. A standout season may yield a few more offers down the road. BIGGEST HOLE: The offensive line is without a returning starter, or a senior, which is an ominous sign for a team that runs the ball as much as Judge. NEED TO KNOW: The Bulldogs will be one of the youngest teams in the state this season, regardless of class. There are six seniors on the roster. A talented class of 35 freshmen enter Cordova's program. But some may be forced to play right away, a scary proposition for a coach who has traditionally valued experience.SEASON OPENER: Hosts Tooele. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.
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