NOTE: Box Elder finished 6-5 overall in 2010 and 4-1 in Region 5, claiming a share of the league title. The Bees lost in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
BRIGHAM CITY — This is a football team whose best virtues are readily visible in 3D — desire, dedication and determination. And if those qualities mean anything — which they always do — then the Bees will no doubt be stinging some folks in this year's Region 5 race.
Robbie Gunter begins his third year at the Box Elder High football helm with plenty of firepower back from last year's ballclub that tied for the league title.
And if they can continue to learn, work hard and strive for success, they just might surprise some folks this season.
"This senior class, as a group, has not been very successful," Gunter said. "But they've put in a lot of work this offseason to try and change that. And I think it's going to be a strength to them. "They've worked hard and they've learned how to do the little things. They rely on each other a lot more — some teams can rely on one guy to carry them for awhile — Mountain Crest did it (with quarterback Alex Kuresa) clear to the championship game last year. "This group of kids has learned to deal with some disappointment and I think that helps them out," he said. "They've gone through adversity and they're working — hard."
Britton Gunter returns for his senior season at quarterback, and his coach — and Dad — are counting on him to lead the way again this year.
"He did a good job last year for us," Coach/Dad Gunter said. "We're expecting good things out of him again."
The running back position has the most holes to fill, but Gunter says he's got some kids who are ready and able to step up and do the job. "That's where we lost everybody from last year, so we're starting over there," the Bees' coach said. "We've got some kids that can step in there, and we're gonna expect 'em to. "Last year, we had a big strong fullback that we could run trap or up the middle about any time we wanted and he banged. He was a big strong kid. This year, we're gonna rely on three or four kids to run the ball for us."
Sophomore Brecklin Gunter, senior Matt Richards and junior Kyler Allen are battling for the starting job at fullback.
"All three of them are really competing and working hard," Coach Gunter said, "and we'll probably use all three of them." Senior tailback Tyler Andersen "did a really good job this summer. He's come on for us and I expect good things out of him. He has a good vision of the field," his coach said.
Junior tailback Kasen Flinders is another guy who's see some carries out of the Bees' backfield.
Watson, though just a sophomore this season, started at wide receiver as a freshman last year.
"He's a good player, big and athletic, not super-fast but fast enough and athletic," Coach Gunter said.. The team's other top wide receiver is senior Martin Alcantar, with seniors Justin Hendricks and Taylor Wilding at tight end.
"Both of those guys will play, because they're both playing linebacker, too," Gunter said of his tight end tandem. "They're both athletic, good players."
On the offensive line, senior Jeremy Hunsaker saw plenty of action last year at tackle, whle the rest of the O-line finds five guys competing for the other three spots.
Defense should be a strength, with six returning starters including all three linebackers — Brecklin Gunter and Watson, who were both just freshmen a year ago — and senior Taylor Wilding. Reeves is a returning starter at nose guard, with Hunsaker and junior Nate Wanner, senior Garrett Pett and junior K.C. Lowry competing along with five or six other guys for spots on the D-line.
At cornerback, Alcantar is a returning starter and is joined by senior Jarin Yates, with Britton Gunter and Andersen at the safety spots. Dallin Stewart is also doing a good job at cornerback and on all the Bees' special teams.
"It's one game at a time in this region, that's why I like this region a lot," Coach Gunter said, "because the worst team can beat the best team.. "Mountain Crest is probably still the team to beat until somebody knocks 'em off — tying them (for the title) doesn't knock 'em off. They have some great athletes. But I think Logan has probably the most talented kids back from last year. They had a lot of kids starting on offense; their defense was solid, and I'd pick Logan to win it. But Mountain Crest just keeps winning that region title. Logan beat 'em last year and then we beat Logan."
Gunter would love to be in a position to claim a share of the regiion crown again this time around. "This is a group of kids that are working hard," he said. "Probably the biggest thing is we're not a team with one player who stands out, but hopefully it's a group of kids that are going to be a great team.
"We have some kids that we're starting from last year but they're still kind of role players; they're just good, solid workers, and that's what we're expecting out of them again."
And on Friday nights this fall, they'll be readily visible in all their 3D glory.
Box Elder Bees at a glance
Coach: Robbie Gunter begins his third year as Box Elder's head coach. He has gone 8-12 overall in his first two years at Box Elder and 44-41 overall in eight years as a head coach. He is a graduate of Marsh Valley (Idaho) High School.
(4 returning starters; Wing-T) Having Britton Gunter back to run the offense again this year is a huge plus, but the Bees must fill the void at running back with a fullback/tailback by committee philosophy. Having Reeves and Lehr return as starters on the O-line helps a lot, as does Watson's contribution at wide receiver. But Box Elder will be hoping to put points on the scoreboard despite having seven new starters on offense.
(6 returning starters) A veteran linebacking crew of Brecklin Gunter, Watson and Wilding should pay dividends, as will the return of Reeves up front and Alcantar in the secondary. If they get their D-line question marks figured out, the Box Elder defense figures to me mighty stingy this season.
Coaches' preseason Region 1 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Third
Bottom line: A hard-working group of seniors aims to atone for its past struggles, and the Bees are accustomed to success over the years. So they'll accept nothing less this season, although Bonneville and Roy are both expected to be much-improved over last year. The schedule has Box Elder playing three of its five region matchups on the road, including visits to always-tough Cache Valley rivals Sky View and Logan, as well as a revamped Roy program.
Aug. 19 at Weber, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 SYRACUSE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Roy, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Sky View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 MOUNTAIN CREST, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Logan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 POCATELLO (Idaho) 7 p.m.