Maple Mountain coach Brad Burtenshaw is not afraid to start young players, and he will prove that this season.
His starting quarterback, Jaron Hall, is just a sophomore, his starting running back, Cole Casper, is a junior and two of his top three receivers, Connor Ellis and Jake Mafi, are juniors.
And yet it's not the young skill players who worry Burtenshaw. Hall started three games at quarterback as a freshman, and Casper was the team's leading rusher as a sophomore. The Golden Eagles finished 9-2, falling in the first round of the playoffs to Box Elder.
What worries Burtenshaw most is his offensive line, where all five starters from last season are gone.
"We played a lot of young kids last year, but we had that veteran line," Burtenshaw said. "It's the No. 1 priority every year because you got to have those five guys in sync who are strong enough to compete, who are big enough to compete. Or else it really doesn't matter who you have at quarterback or running back or receivers because you'll never have time to do anything."
The youthfulness of his players also might contribute to one of the other things that Burtenshaw noted about his team.
"I look at our team this year, and I don't think we're going to be bigger than any team that we face," Burtenshaw said. "We'll probably be the smaller team, but with good speed and good athletes."
Maple Mountain Golden Eagles
ASSIGNMENT • Region 8
LAST YEAR • 9-2 overall, 6-1 Region 8
KEY RETURNER • Cole Casper, jr., RB. Casper led the team in rushing as a sophomore, scoring five touchdowns and averaging 7.34 yards per carry.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Connor Ellis, jr., WR. Ellis caught just six passes for 150 yards last season, but he has impressed coaches this summer and will be one of the main targets this year.
BIGGEST HOLE • The Golden Eagles lost all five starting offensive linemen from last season, and the guys they do have coming back are undersized and inexperienced.
NEED TO KNOW • Maple Mountain has made the playoffs the last three seasons and has beat rival Springville the last two seasons. The Golden Eagles look forward to renewing a rivalry with Spanish Fork this season.