Prep football two-a-days: Syracuse
Last year's team was last year's team.
And Syracuse football coach Russ Jones knows it.
The Titans went 12-0 before being blasted by the Jordan Beetdiggers in the Class 5A state title game, and Jones said this year's bunch must make its own waves and avoid looking back.
"Getting to the finals was great for our kids and the experience in getting along the way, but I sense that our seniors and those kids returning have a little bit of a bitter taste in their mouth," Jones said. "They're ready to get started and win some ballgames."
Syracuse does return seven starters from a talented defense, including strong safety star Kavika Fonua, defensive tackle Caden Call and linebacker Wyatt German.
But much of the success of the season will rest on the broad shoulders of 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior quarterback Kole Tracy, who takes over behind center for the graduated Brock Anderson.
Jones said Tracy currently is a run-first quarterback, adding "he's just one of those kids that wants to run through people."
Tracy will have a versatile but inexperienced group of wideouts at his disposal, including Josh Homer, Diante Atkinson, Karson Nielson and Trevor Olsen.
"I wouldn't count out us passing the ball," Jones said. "We might not have the talent we had last year, but we'll make it fit."
Region 1 is typically tough again this season, and the Titans' non-region schedule weeks 1 through 3 features three of the top teams in 4A: at Box Elder, home against Highland and at Mountain Crest.
The 2013 campaign starts Aug. 23, and Jones is ready to see what this group can do as an encore to last year's state title game run.
"Last year was last year's team, and some of the kids were a part of it," Jones said. "It's fun, but it's always tough to match it."
ASSIGNMENT • Region 1
LAST YEAR • 12-1 overall, 5-0 Region 1
KEY RETURNER • Kavika Fonua, sr., RB/SS: Jones said Fonua will be one of the featured backs in the backfield, but the coach reiterated his main trade is defense. "He's just very strong, very quick and has lots of power. He's brought that ever since he's been here.".
PLAYER TO WATCH • Trevor Olsen, sr., WR/RB: Olsen will be a jack-of-all-trades in the Titan offense, lining up on the outside as well as behind QB Kole Tracy. At 6 foot, 180 pounds, Olsen also does the long snapping and is described as one of the team's most versatile players.
BIGGEST HOLE • While Tracy has solid size and athletic ability, replacing the efficiency of Brock Anderson will be difficult. Jones says: "Kole is so young, but I think he can still do it. But I think [the quarterback position] is a solid thing we've got to straighten out right now.
NEED TO KNOW • Syracuse has the defense to compete in 5A once again, but the onus will fall on the offense and the likes of Tracy, Olsen and Fonua to put pressure on opposing defenses and give their own defense a rest when needed.