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Prep football preview: Salem Hills Skyhawks
First Published Aug 14 2014 09:52 am • Last Updated Aug 19 2014 09:16 am

EDITOR’S NOTE » This is one in a series of previews of Utah’s high school football programs. They will run throughout the summer leading up to the 2014 regular season, which begins Aug. 21.

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Salem Hills Skyhawks

Everyone from head coach to waterboy is expecting Salem Hills to turn in its best season ever.

No pressure, really.

"Our goal is to be the best team in school history," coach Joel Higginson said. "Our mentality has shifted and guys have a high level of belief. That will help us be a better team than last year."

All the Skyhawks did last year was win eight games — the most in the school’s six-year history. But with eight or nine starters back on each side of the ball, the bar is being raised to new heights.

Staying injury-free will be the key. Senior quarterback/linebacker Porter Gustin didn’t take snaps during the second half of the 2013 season because of a broken thumb. If he stays healthy, he will be one of the top players in Class 4A, if not the state.

He threw for 13 TDs and just three interceptions as a junior, and Higginson said his velocity has increased and he has developed touch on his passes heading into his second season at the marquee position.

To whom Gustin will throw has yet to be determined. The Skyhawks graduated their top five receivers from 2013 and have four starting wideout spots to fill. Two of those likely will be seniors Chad Peterson and Nate Wilson, both of whom have also played quarterback in the past.

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If they can catch it, the Skyhawks might be tough to catch in Region 8.

Last year » 8-4 (3-3 Region 8)

Key returner » Porter Gustin is going to be a load to bring down at quarterback, and a force at middle linebacker.

Player to watch » Nose guard Jaxon Bowden is bigger and stronger as a senior. He had 6.5 sacks and 73 tackles a season ago.

Biggest hole » The loss of the top five receivers from 2013 is the only real weakness in the starting lineup.

Need to know » Chad Peterson, who started six games at quarterback last season after Gustin broke his thumb, is moving to wide receiver to catch passes from Gustin this year.

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