Prep football: 3AA North preview

Published August 21, 2014 1:05 pm
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Bear River Bears

Bear River should know pretty darn early whether it can expect to compete in a talented Class 3AA North region.

That's because coach Chris Wise has loaded up the preseason portion of the Bears' schedule with Class 4A teams Logan, Mountain Crest and Box Elder, in an effort to test his team and prepare the players for region play.

"They're asking me if I'm trying to kill them," Wise said of his players. "We're going to focus on what we're good at, and not going to worry about making adjustments."

Senior quarterback Walker Riley, a backup last year, will run the triple-option spread offense, and will look to get the ball to wideout Bridger Beus, who scored five TDs a season ago.

There are plenty of holes on the offensive line that need to be filled — left guard Carson Gibbs is the only returning starter up front.

New defensive coordinator Jared Lish will work to retool a squad that allowed 34 points or more five times last season. He will build around senior linebacker McKade Mitton, who was a monster a season ago (more than 150 tackles and five sacks).

If they survive the preseason schedule, the Bears just may be in position to compete for the 3AA North title.

"It's hard to say," Wise said. "There are so many talented teams in the region. Juan Diego graduated a lot of seniors, but they always have athletes. You just never can tell."

Last year • 7-4 (4-2 in Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Senior linebacker McKade Mitton had twice as many tackles as the next closest teammate a season ago, and led the team with five sacks.

Player to watch • Wise said the Bears need to get the ball into the hands of junior Bridger Beus, an elusive wideout who will carry and catch the ball in the triple-option spread offense.

Biggest hole • The offensive line lost four starters from a season ago, but Wise isn't overly concerned about the Bears' ability to fill the hole.

Need to know • The Bears will look to replace the production of last year's quarterback, Jardee Neeson, who accounted for 35 touchdowns.

Ben Lomond Scots

"Nowhere to go but up."

That sums up new Ben Lomond coach Eric Alder's approach to the 2014 season, one in which the Scots will try to end the state's second longest losing streak and begin to restore order in Ogden.

Alder inherits a program that went winless in 2012 and 2013, a streak of 20 consecutive defeats.

"It's an opportunity for me and for the kids," said Alder, who spent last season as the quarterbacks coach at Mountain View and before that a decade at Sky View. "It's a chance to start something new and change the culture."

Among the changes the Scots will unveil this season is a no-huddle spread offense, run by returning starting quarterback Rigo Vasquez.

The defense will also get a makeover, moving to a 4-2-5 scheme. That should allow athletic safeties such as Vasquez and Ambrosio Ramirez chances to make big plays on the defensive side of the ball — something that has been lacking in recent years for the Scots.

Last year • 0-10 (0-6 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Senior Rigo Vasquez has put in a lot of time with new coach Eric Alder learning the offense. "He is smart and understands the game," Alder said. "He's football intelligent."

Players to watch • Running back Mario Anderson will get a ton of touches in the Scots' new offense, as will slot receiver Ambrosio Ramirez.

Biggest hole • The offensive and defensive lines are a bit of a mystery early in camp. "We are still looking for guys who want to play physical, nasty football," Alder said.

Need to know • The Scots have just three wins over the past five seasons, the most recent coming Oct. 19, 2011 with a 15-0 triumph against Tooele.

Juan Diego Soaring Eagle

Juan Diego's players aren't wearing nametags to help the coaches identify them, but there's certainly a new look on the field.

The Soaring Eagle lost nearly 30 seniors to graduation from last year's Class 3AA North championship team — about double the senior class coach John Colosimo typically watches leave.

"We're usually in the 15-16 range — that's what we have this year, 16 seniors," Colosimo said. "They can all play and they've had tons of experience playing as freshmen, sophomores and on the JV. I'm excited about all of them."

Colosimo's first task is addressing the loss of 17 starters, including the entire defensive line. Defense had been a strength for Juan Diego last season, until it struggled in the playoffs and allowed 48 points to Desert Hills in a shootout.

The top three running backs in a triple-option offense that amassed nearly 4,000 yards are also no longer around. Gabe Colosimo will move into the quarterback position, a spot his dad says he's prepared to handle.

"He's been around Juan Diego football since he was born," Colosimo said. "He knows the triple-option and knows what to do. He's also a good little point guard, and that makes him a good quarterback."

Seniors Carter Campbell and Cole Stevenson are expected to step into the starting spots in the backfield. They had 23 carries between them last season.

Last year • 11-1 (6-0 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Senior Gabe Colosimo finally gets a crack at the starting QB position, where he will slide over to from cornerback.

Player to watch • Junior tight end Alex Hoffman has played a big role in the Soaring Eagle offense at the lower levels, and should continue to build upon his rapport with Colosimo at QB.

Biggest hole • There are no returning starters on the defensive line, meaning Andrew Markosian and Adam Murry, a couple of two-way players, will be counted upon heavily.

Need to know • How's this for tradition — Juan Diego has won at least one playoff game in each of the past 12 years.

Park City Miners

Mike Shepherd's rebuilding project at Park City is a bit behind schedule as the coach enters his second year in his second stint at the school.

The sudden death of athletic director and assistant coach Aaron Alford on the first day of practice last year stunned the program from the outset and left a pall over the 2013 season.

"We never really recovered," Shepherd said. "It took so long to rebound that we were behind the whole time. But the kids have worked really hard and they've showed us they're willing to work as hard as we want them to."

The Miners won just one game in 2012, and played a ton of young players in 2013. They are still young, but they are athletic — especially at the skill positions — and will look to take advantage of that this season.

Senior quarterback Ian Moritz returns behind what will be an inexperienced offensive line — only tackle Ryan Graves returns as a starter. Junior Grayson Maddux is also back at running back. Moritz and Maddux combined for more than 900 yards rushing last season.

Defensively, the Miners are switching to a 3-4 defense to take advantage of a talented linebacker corps, led by Maddux.

"He has put on about 15 pounds and he is a real good athlete," Shepherd said of Maddux. "We've got some good athletes, but we lack size and experience on the line."

Last year • 3-8 (3-3 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Senior quarterback Ian Moritz accounted for 1,800 yards through the air and on the ground last year.

Player to watch • Junior Graysen Maddux returns at running back, and will move from cornerback to linebacker in the Miners' new 3-4 defensive scheme.

Biggest hole • Offensive line, without question. Only one starter returns, and Park City will rely on juniors and sophomores in the other spots.

Need to know • The Miners have made the playoffs in 7 of the past 8 seasons.

Stansbury Stallions

Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen is trying his best to temper expectations for the 2014 season, but he may be fighting an uphill battle.

The Stallions return seven or eight starters on each side of the ball from a team that finished second in the Class 3AA North a season ago, and have two of the top talents in the state in the backfield.

These Stallions are ready to bust loose from the stable.

"Our Achilles heel has been the first round of the playoffs," said Christiansen, whose team has lost to the eventual state champion each of the past two years. "That's why it's important we finish first and give ourselves a little better matchup against a 4-seed from the South, though they won't be a pushover."

Stansbury returns senior quarterback Gage Manzione, who started the final seven games in 2013 after Chase Christiansen went down with injury.

The running game that amassed more than 3,000 yards last year returns two-way standouts Hudson Conrad and Zayne Anderson.

Manzione's ability to throw the ball — "we threw more at the Utah State summer camp than we ever had," said Christiansen — means defenses can't key on stopping the run.

That's just what the Stallions are hoping for.

Last year • 7-4 (5-1 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • The Stallions will rely heavily on two seniors on both sides of the ball. RB/CB Hudson Conrad is one of the fastest kids in the state; RB/S Zayne Anderson has garnered interest from BYU and Utah State.

Players to watch • The triple-option offense relies heavily on its fullback, a position to be filled by Josh Griffeth and Clay Matthews.

Biggest hole • A run team is nothing without a solid offensive line, and the Stallions are "reloading" up front, looking to fill two starting positions.

Need to know • Stansbury is switching to a 3-4 defense.

Tooele Buffaloes

Tooele might not yet be ready to compete for a region title, but the Buffaloes' No. 1 goal this season has been clearly defined.

A season ago, they made the playoffs, but had to travel to Snow Canyon as a fifth seed. This year, the top priority is to stay home for the postseason opener.

"I think that's realistic," coach Kyle Brady said. "We're a good team and we're going to have to be able to win some close games."

They will do it on the ground, on the legs of senior Ryan Brady, Kyle's brother. He takes over for the graduated Adam Pace, who amassed 1,000 yards on the ground last season.

Ryan Brady will be running behind an offensive line that returns four starters — Zach Langi, Tyler Daley, TaeJohn Koffell and Jayden Caires.

"We have some good depth coming back," Kyle Brady said. "We have seven to eight starters back on each side of the ball, and we have five or six running backs who we will rely on."

On defense, senior Zac Cruz returns from injury and will team with senior Nick Schwartzman at linebacker, and All-State lineman Maka Kioa (10 sacks) is back as an anchor up front.

Given all that talent, expect the Buffs to charge their way up the region ranks.

Last year • 3-7 (2-4 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Defensive line is the Buffs' strength, and senior Maka Kioa is a big reason why. The senior recorded 10 sacks last year and can expect a steady dose of double-teams all season.

Player to watch • Senior Ryan Brady will move into the role as featured running back, stepping in for departed 1,000-yard rusher Adam Pace.

Biggest hole • Filling the void left by Pace, who shared the team lead with nine touchdowns during his senior season.

Need to know • Tooele's playoff appearance last year ended a six-year postseason drought for the Buffs.

Uintah Utes

You get the sense that Uintah is still a year away from being a major contender in Class 3AA North.

That would make the 2014 season a pretty big stepping stone on the Utes' climb from the bottom.

"I think we're picking up where we left off from last, rather than starting over like we did at the start of last season," third-year coach Cody Reutzel said. "It's nice to see."

The Utes return seven or eight starters on each side of the ball, and have a ton of talent back from a team that easily should have had more than one region win last season if it weren't for its struggles in the red zone.

Finding a starting quarterback will be key — it's a two-man race between senior Hayden Bunderson and junior Kedric Coonis. And the Utes will have holes to fill along the offensive and defensive lines, but Reutzel is optimistic.

"Last year's senior class wasn't big, but they were valuable," he said. "We've got a pretty talented group back."

That talent but will be tested early — the Utes play four road games after opening at home against Ogden, and have six road games overall.

Last year • 3-7 (1-5 Class 3AA North)

Key returner • Hayden Bunderson was the Utes' top receiver last year, hauling in seven TDs. This season, he is competing for the starting quarterback job after impressing coaches in camp.

Player to watch • Tyson Colton rushed for five touchdowns last season as a sophomore. Reutzel said Colton just might sneak up on opposing teams this year.

Biggest hole • The Utes are physically talented, but lost a lot of leadership to graduation. Who will step up and take the reins?

Need to know • How close were the Utes to making the playoffs last season? Four of their losses last season were by eight points or fewer.



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