Note: Lehi finished with a 0-10 overall record in 2010 and a 0-6 record in Region 7. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
LEHI — It has been a long, long time since Lehi was victorious, and it's been an even longer time since the Pioneers were relevant on the gridiron.
Heading into the 2011 season, Lehi has lost 26 consecutive games dating back to its 16-13 win over Provo on Sept. 5, 2008. During that time span it has given up 40-plus points 16 times and posted a goose-egg on offense eight times.
This type of futility isn't uncommon for the Pioneers, after posting six straight losing seasons with only four wins during that era. In the past decade, Lehi has been outscored by over 1,000 points since winning the 3A state title in 2000.
First year head coach, David Hasington, whom inherited the team in February, believes changes are cooking in the Lehi kitchen and the wins are finally trotting around the corner after the long period of frustration.
"We have high expectations; we believe that we're going to compete," Hasington said. "The losing streak is going to end, it's been two and a half years — we believe that that's going to end."
But he isn't all about believing and wishful thinking for results; he's implemented a three-step process into the program to preach a different mentality and in turn create success.
"First of all we need to expect to win, second of all we prepare to win and third of all we believe. We've just built everything around those three things and we talk about what that means," stated Hasington. "What does it mean to expect to win, what does it mean to prepare and kids have been working hard. I think everything we've done up until this point is really to start a belief that we're going to be competitive and we're gonna win ballgames."
The road to the land of wins only gets more crooked with the jump to the 5A classification after spending the last couple of years in the 4A ranks.
"We welcome the challenge — we know how tough it is," said Hasington. "I've told these kids from day one 'where else would you rather be?' You're in the top classification in the state of Utah and in my belief in one of the top regions in the state."
The main priority is on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, Lehi gave up over 43 points per game — the second highest total in the state. Only to complicate the problem, the Pioneers lost their top two leading tacklers to graduation, Bubba Demke and Adam Tait, who teamed up for 202 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2010.
To stop the bleeding, Hasington is relying on two people to make the change — newly appointed defensive coordinator JP Salisbury, who spent last season at Copper Hills, and senior linebacker Zach Wilson.
"(Salisbury) was successful (at Copper Hills). So with him implementing our system our emphasis is we're going to try and take away what the other team does best," said Hasington. "I'm really confident in him and what he brings."
"Not only leadership with him being a senior, very strong, very quick, fast, athletic," Hasington added about Wilson. "He's got a great attitude — he's gonna settle in at linebacker and help the defense."
Lehi Pioneers at a glance
Coach: David Hastings is entering his first career season as a head coach at the high school level. He's a graduate of Madison, Idaho.
This could be the season that Lehi breaks things open with the football. Junior quarterback Kinloch Gray returns under center after tossing for nearly 1,900 yards last season.
"He's (shown) a lot of confidence, a lot of poise and the ability to lead our offense," Hasington said of Gray.
He'll have two explosive targets on the outskirt in Zane Munger and Jordan Peck along with Jake Benson who was the leading rusher and receiver last year while the Pioneers make the transition from a spread offense to pro style.
"I think you'll see us line up in I-Back a little bit more than usual," said Hasington, "try and do some off tackle things — some play action rather than shotgun all the time, a little more under center."
The defense should improve with new philosophies and different personnel. Huge strides are imminent after giving up such hefty numbers last season, expect Lehi to cut several points off the per game average.
Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 10 prediction: SixthComment on this story
Bottom line: The losing streak will come to a close within the first four weeks of the season. The two games to highlight are in the second and fourth weeks at Maple Mountain and against Payson — look for the Pioneers to win at least one of those contests. However, expecting anything more than that might be false hope with Lehi playing in one of the most difficult regions in the state. This team is still a long way away from being competitive, but winning that first game is a great step.
Aug. 19 — TIMPANOGOS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Maple Mountain, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Orem, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Viewmont, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — BINGHAM, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.