Once the Highland Rams step foot outside the halls of their high school, life sets on them pretty quickly.
So Highland coach Brody Benson continually has reminded his team as it prepares for the 2013 season to seize the opportunity directly in front of it, to play football the way he wants to it be played, with preparation and maneuvering through a season-long grind.
"They don't want any cliques," he said about his players. "They want it to be about one unit and one family. We always say that we're a group of brothers taking care of one another, and they've really bought into that and are working to achieve."
There is a foundation of returning talent set for the Rams, who compete in a brute Region 6 with some of the top teams in Class 4A football.
Returning is Michigan commit Bryan Mone, a surefire anchor to lines on both sides of the ball. Toss in senior linebacker and wing back Adam Webber, and Benson said the Rams, along with the likes of seniors Pita Tonga, Cody Hilborn and Ben Bergeson, have a cluster of varsity veterans to help guide Highland through a difficult schedule.
"We have multiple kids who are two-, three- or even four-year starters for us," Benson said.
But senior Jamal Greer has the keys to the option offense. At 6 foot 1 and 185 pounds, Greer replaces Austin Peterson, who was the architect of the Rams a season ago.
"He's worked his guts out and he's earned his shot," Benson said. "He does some things very, very well, and he's turning into a leader. â¦ He can run, he can jump and he's making good decisions with the option."
Greer will have returning backs such as Vili Sekona and Dewey Clark executing the Benson offense and helping the Rams contend for a shot at the region crown and possibly beyond.
"Our region is a true measure of what high school football should be," he said.
ASSIGNMENT • Region 6
LAST YEAR • 8-5 overall
KEY RETURNERS • Bryan Mone, sr., G/DL and Adam Webber, sr., LB/RB. Coach Benson said of the pair: "You don't have to spend a lot of time on the field coaching them. They know what they need to do."
PLAYER TO WATCH • Jamal Greer, sr., QB. The Rams always try to stick their best athlete at the quarterback position, and Benson believes Greer has the intangibles and knowledge of the offense to lead despite this being Greer's first year as a starter under center.
BIGGEST HOLE • Secondary. There is talent, but that's where the team needs the most growth and the fastest, Benson said. "We're just trying to get the secondary up to speed," he said.
NEED TO KNOW • Benson said he's seen this group come together quicker than most in recent years and that they've spent much of the offseason in the weight room preparing for the Aug. 22 opener at home against Mountain Crest.