At the end of nearly every practice, the Lehi football team gathers and cheers on two teammates as they push a tire or sled from end zone to midfield. Largely volunteer-based, players take turns vying for a spot at the top of the record board - currently 18.1 seconds for a 50-yard tire push.
Stoking motivation alone won't change on-field results, but for the Pioneers - only a season removed from ending a 0-26 losing streak - adopting a winning attitude could be the most crucial change.
"I feel a real positiveness in our program right now," said head coach Dave Hastings. "Most importantly, they believe in the system. They believe in us coaches and believe that we're going to get them in the best possible situation to be successful."
The change, he said, started sometime during the summer at 7-on-7 workouts at Utah and BYU. No, the Pioneers weren't playing in games of consequence, but their performance gradually became lesssusceptive to highs and lows.
"(Last year, when) things went bad, it went real bad," Hastings said. "When things went good, it went really good, almost to the point where we couldn't perform for the next few plays."
He credits this class with being much more emotionally stable, and players agree. They're excited about what their power run offense can do, and are encouraged by a few close first halves against region rivals last year.
"It's definitely a lot better attitude than it used to be," said quarterback Clayton Greenwood. "It was garbage last year."
Stuck in the same region as perennial 5A contenders Bingham and Lone Peak, Lehi is still somewhat overmatched. But it no longer holds the state's longest losing streak, and winning feels not only possible, but probable.
LAST YEAR: 2-8, missed playoffs.KEY RETURNER: Folo Ulukivaiola, senior, running back. Nicknamed "Bubba," he's the focal point of the Pioneer offense after running for 10 touchdowns and almost 900 yards as a backup. He's small at around 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, but he churns out yards after contact.PLAYER TO WATCH: Clayton Greenwood, senior, quarterback. Lehi traditionally deploys a power run game and will do so again this year, but Hastings said the team may mix in packages for the first-year starter. Hastings praised the 6-foot-3 quarterback's short memory and willingness to throw blocks, but the senior only weighs 185 pounds.BIGGEST HOLE: Linebackers and defensive linemen. Defense is switching from a 3-5 formation to a 4-3, and those positions need to be shored up as the Pioneers try to improve their pass rush and containment.NEED TO KNOW: Lehi finally opens a season without being haunted by its ignominious losing streak. Two wins are nothing to brag about, but the psychological difference between 2-8 and 0-26 is immense. SEASON OPENER: Hosts Timpanogos. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.
Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton
July 26: Hunter/Park City
July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills
July 28: Davis/Juan DiegoJuly 30: Olympus/Judge Memorial
July 31: Alta/Grantsville
Aug. 1: Westlake/West Jordan
Aug. 2: Layton/Hillcrest
Aug. 3: Jordan/Lone Peak
Aug. 4: Viewmont/Stansbury
Jack Wangjwang@sltrib.comTwitter: @thejackwang