Hip-hop music blasted over the speakers of the weight room during a recent early morning weight lifting session at Lehi High School. Despite the early start, it already was a brutally hot summer day. But the room was crowded with Pioneer football players.
That's just the way third-year coach Dave Hastings likes it. He said that winning football games begins in the weight room.
"Our participation in the weight room has tripled from where it was before," Hastings said. "We've got committed kids, and what we're finding is that when they're committed in the weight room, they hold each other accountable. You don't have that when you take over a losing program at first."
The Pioneers have just eight wins since their last winning season in 2004, but half of those wins have come under Hastings in identical 2-8 seasons the last two years.
The strength that Hastings hopes his team is building in the weight room is critically important for Lehi if it is to turn around its fortunes this season. The Pioneers rely on a power running offense that will try to out-muscle the opposition.
The featured back in that power offense is senior Ryan Absher, who rushed for 1,043 yards and scored 11 touchdowns last season. With Absher back and a stronger line blocking for him, the Pioneers will try for their first winning season in the last nine years.
ASSIGNMENT • Region 4
LAST YEAR • 2-8 overall, 0-5 Region 4
KEY RETURNER • Derrick Hastings, sr., FB/LB. The coach's son has college interest and is vitally important rushing the ball and blocking for Ryan Absher as a fullback, as well as making tackles from the linebacker position.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Derek Beeston, sr., QB. Beeston has been waiting his turn on the junior varsity team, but the 6-foot-2 quarterback who Hastings said keeps getting bigger finally will get his chance to lead the Pioneers in his final year.
BIGGEST HOLE • Hastings still is looking for impact players on the defensive line. He said that having his offensive linemen play both ways is an option, but he'd rather find pure defensive linemen.
NEED TO KNOW • Hastings said this is his best team yet and is proud that they are all Lehi players who live in the Lehi boundaries.