Joel Higginson was hired to coach the Salem Hills football team in late April 2012. But it took months for all of the proper paperwork to be filed and everything to be set in order.
Higginson felt like he was playing catch up his entire first year, and his newly installed offense sputtered. The Skyhawks scored seven points or fewer on five occasions.
"We do have a little bit of a complex offense, little bit of a complex defense," Higginson said. "Having time under our belts now through the season and through the offseason, we really understand some of those principals. It's been significant for what we're doing."
The Skyhawks run a spread-option attack, and their best returner on offense is wide receiver Zach Zobell. The senior caught four touchdowns and racked up 575 yards receiving last season. He'll be part of a trio of experienced receivers that includes Ammon Fifita and Cole Christensen.
Maybe the most important trio of returners comes on the offensive line, with center Garrett Parry, guard Connor Hunt and tackle Tyler Christensen. All three started as sophomores.
"Returning those guys was significant for us," Higginson said.
The Skyhawk defense is a little less experienced.
"We lost a lot of our defensive players," Higginson said. "We are anchored right now by Walker Van Tassell."
Van Tassell, a senior, will bring leadership to the linebacking corps, while Jackson Bowden and his five sacks from last year will help control the line. Zobell and Scott Lyman bring experience and skill to the secondary.
Salem Hills Skyhawks
ASSIGNMENT • Region 8
LAST YEAR • 3-7 overall, 2-5 Region 8
KEY RETURNER • Zach Zobell, sr., WR. Zobell is the most seasoned receiver on the team and led the squad in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Connor Hunt, jr., OL/DL. Hunt was injured much of last season, but he impressed coach Higginson near the end of the campaign. He'll play both ways and should cause problems as a defensive lineman.
BIGGEST HOLE • Varsity experience, especially at quarterback, where four players are battling for the starting role.
NEED TO KNOW • Higginson and his staff are all very young, so the lack of experience is not limited to the field. But it could be a positive thing and allow the coaches to grow alongside the players.