NOTE: Bear River finished with a 5-5 overall record in 2010 and tied for second in Region 11 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Desert Hills, 15-14, in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
GARLAND — It's hard to believe that in the four years since Bear River's last football state championship, the team has enjoyed just one winning season. After all, this was a program that not that long ago won three titles in a span of four years.
Bear River coach Chris Wise believes this particular collection of players has the intangibles to become relevant in 3A again and build on the positive things they accomplised last year.
"I hope we can build on that. That's been what's been the problem the past few years. You get them to a certain point, and then the senior leaders are gone and then you have to start over," said Wise. "I think this group for maybe the first time in two or three years has the ability to build on what the teams before have done."
That's impressive considering that there aren't that many returning starters — two on offense and three on defense.
What Bear River lacks in experience it makes up for in mentality.
"We have a lot of hard-nosed farm kids, so I think you're going to see Bear River of old as far as running the ball," said Wise.
That attitude should translate over to the defensive side of the ball as well as the Bears look to rediscover the smash-mouth brand of football that made them so tough to beat not that long ago.
Wise said he'll miss being in the same region as the Catholic schools — Juan Diego and Judge Memorial — but he's excited about what programs like Tooele, Stansbury and Ogden will add to Region 11 as they move down from 4A to 3A.
Offensively, quarterback Tayton Rose will be counted on for big things. He has a very good understanding of the zone-running offense and is a capable passer as well. One of the few returning starters, he brings a level of continuity back that Bear River should be able to build on.
With very little in the way of experience on the offensive line, Bear River spent a good chunk of the summer trying to simplify the offense.
"With the young group of kids, it's going to be important to do a few things really well, and that's what we've been focusing on," said Wise. "Find out what the parts are going to be and then finding how to use them the best we can within what we already do. That's still kind of up in the air."
Even though Wise isn't sure how it will all come together, he believes those parts are in the mold of past Bear River teams who relished the challenge of playing smash-mouth football.
Bear River Bears at a glance
Coach: Chris Wise is entering his 10th season as Bear River's head coach, and he's one of the longest-tenured coaches in school history. He's amassed a 58-45 record along the way, including state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. He's a graduate of Bear River High School.
(2 returning starters; zone-running offense)