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Brighton High looking to build on last year’s 10-win campaign, led by four-star linebacker Lander Barton

But coach Justin Hemm and the Bengals have to fill holes at key skill positions first

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Highly recruited linebacker Lander Barton from Brighton High School poses for a photo in February 2021. Barton will be a big part of the Bengals' success this season.

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The Brighton Bengals had a solid 2020 season. Their only loss was in the 5A playoffs, and it was in the quarterfinals to a Timpview team that made it to the championship game.

But while Brighton is returning many of its key linemen on offense and defense, they’ll have some holes to fill in the skill positions after graduating players like quarterback Gabe Curtis, running backs Mason Young and Owen powers, and receiver Collin Edwards.

Coach Justin Hemm, however, thinks his 2021 team has enough talent to hit its stride right around playoff time.

“We want to compete and we want to compete with the best,” Hemm said.

The roster likely starts and ends with senior Lander Barton, the team’s top linebacker and an uncommitted four-star recruit. He’s received interest from a number of Pac-12 schools (including Utah), as well as Utah State, Virginia, Notre Dame and Nebraska.

Hemm, who is in his third season at the helm for the Bengals, said Barton is “special,” and mentally and emotionally mature for his age. He added that it’s Barton’s leadership that has the biggest impact on the Bengals.

“Having a guy like Lander with the opportunities he has to play at the next level, setting that standard in the program, really helps every other person in the program understand those expectations,” Hemm said.

Hemm said sophomore quarterback Jack Johnson won the starting spot among several quality QBs. Other young players Hemm will rely on for production are running backs Kace Gurr and Mitchell Dolato, and receivers Bingham Zollinger and Nash Matheson.

While some of his skill players are lacking in game experience, Hemm said there’s a lot of talent in that group.

Brighton Bengals

Season opener: Friday vs. Pleasant Grove

Last season: 10-1, lost in 5A quarterfinals

Key newcomers: RB Kace Gurr, RB Mitchell Dolato; WR Bingham Zollinger, Nash Matheson; RB Easton Smith; QB Quincy Covington

Key returners: LB Lander Barton, OT Jacob Reece, OG Max Owens, DT Tyler Knaak, WR Nate Vyfinkel, LB Nicklaus Hagman, DT Mana Nonu, DT AJ Larsen, CB Jace Matheson

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