Note: Hillcrest finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2010 and an 0-6 record in Region 4. It missed the playoffs.
MIDVALE — Hillcrest is turning the page. Starting over. Putting the past behind them.
No matter how he spins it, it's obvious that first-year coach Casey Miller is dead set on putting a new face on a program that hasn't finished with a winning record since 2003. And with the Huskies switching from 5A to 4A — playing in a new region with new rivals and even new uniforms — there hasn't been a better time than now to try.
"We've stripped things down and we're pretty much starting from scratch," Miller said. "I feel like the team has been kind of stuck the last few years, spinning their wheels with nothing to really hang their hat on. This year we have new expectations, and we're putting the team in position to get better results."
Going with the fresh start motif, Hillcrest will roll out a squad filled with players who have yet to log much varsity time. Last year's quarterback, Tanner Kemp — who accounted for 1,521 total yards, or roughly 60 percent of Hillcrest's total offense — is gone and another Tanner, Tanner Dastrup, will step in. Dastrup threw for 455 yard and three touchdowns as a junior last season, so the learning curve at the quarterback position won't be as steep.
"We're counting on Tanner this year," Miller said. "We're inexperienced along the offensive line, but our skill positions are much deeper, and Tanner's going to lead those guys. He saw a good amount of action last year, so it won't be a huge transition."
Kyle Gashler will also return to provide versatility on both sides of the ball. The senior-to-be was one of the team's leading rushers (181 yards) and was also productive from his linebacker spot.
The one area of experience for the Huskies is the defensive backfield, where all four starters return from last season. Bailey Ammons, who also starts at wide receiver, along with Buddy Nemeschy and Brock Whitworth will try to take the pressure off an inexperienced front seven.
Despite the lofty goal of hosting a first-round playoff game, Miller's not oblivious to the reality of playing in a region with traditional power Skyline and up-and-coming squads like Herriman and Westlake.
"We moved down from 5A to 4A, but that doesn't mean things are going to be easy," Miller said. "I think it's more fair as far as attrition goes — our depth will be about the same as the teams we're playing against — but our region is going to be, I think, one of the toughest in the state."
Hillcrest Huskies at a glance
Coach: This season will be Casey Miller's first as a head coach. He graduated from Cyprus High School and spent the past four years as an assistant coach at a high school in California.
(5 returning starters; Pro-style offense)
Tanner Dastrup, who saw considerable playing time as a junior last season, will take the reigns as the quarterback of a team in transition. The biggest change from last season's spread offense to the pro-style this year will be the use of tight ends and fullbacks. Those positions, though, will be worked in as the season goes along since no players have experience at those spots. Bailey Ammons, who hauled in 33 catches for 319 yards last season, will lead an experienced group of receivers.
(4 returning starters)
With four returning starters the defensive backfield will be the backbone of Hillcrest's team. Buddy Nemeschy and Brock Whitworth, along with Bailey Ammons, provide the experience in those spots. Hunter Park and Isaiah Teton will anchor the defensive line. Besides starting at running back, Kyle Gashler will return as the most experienced linebacker.
Bottom line: While hopes are high, Hillcrest is still picked to finish near the bottom of Region 7. With inexperience along the offensive and defensive lines, the Huskies will have to find a way to protect their experienced skill-position players. Even with improvement, a winning season will probably have to wait another year.
Aug. 19 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — HERRIMAN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.4 comments on this story
Oct. 7 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Murray, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — SKY VIEW, 7 p.m.