Note: Juan Diego finished with a 12-1 overall record in 2010 and a 5-0 record in Region 11. It won the 3A state championship, 10-7, over Hurricane.
DRAPER — The comparisons between Juan Diego and Notre Dame University are endless. Both are private, religious-based institutions that are known for esteemed academic standards and richly soaked football tradition.
Similar to the Fighting Irish, who have claimed 11 national titles and the third most victories in the history of college football, Juan Diego has already stamped its mark as one of the most successful programs in the state of Utah since its inception in 1999.
Dating back to the 2001 season, Juan Diego has advanced to at least the state quarterfinals with a 103-21 overall record. The Soaring Eagle has claimed state championships in 2002, '04, '08, '09 and '10 and won 39 of their last 41 games.
Heading into the 2011 season, riding a 12-game win streak, Juan Diego is faced with the task of being circled on everyone's calendar once again.
"It's a new year and I know that's cliché — but it really is true," said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo. "These kids want to establish who they are. They haven't been satisfied with championships they've had — they want to try and win their own. It hasn't been hard to motivate them, I think when you win it becomes easier."
Brock Garn returns for his senior season after rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns last year, and also saw significant time under center while Nathan Elorreaga dealt with an injury. Garn is expected to get touches at both positions throughout the season, but is preferred at the tailback position.
Three junior quarterbacks, Nick Markosian, Alex Day and Vincent Bianchi, are fighting for the starting role as the Soaring Eagle move into two-a-day practices.
"(Markosian) hasn't played a lot of quarterback, he's just really athletic," said Colosimo. "If he doesn't play there he'd probably move out to a wide out but I'd say he'd probably be the guy that I'd feel could step up and take that spot."
Juan Diego will see a lot of new faces this season while making the transition from Region 11 to Region 10. It also has one of the most difficult road schedules in 3A with games against Manti, Skyline, Uintah, Park City and Judge Memorial away from home.
"We try, in the preseason, to schedule as hard as we can. I think Manti is a real good football team — they are a very, very good football team," stated Colosimo. "We have to go to Skyline and that will be a battle for us and then our region schedule — we got the short straw and have to go three places. Our road record has been pretty good over the years and we relish the challenge."
The Soaring Eagle bested the stingiest defense in 3A, giving up slightly over 10 points per game last season. With six returning starters, including Jeff Ika, Dakota Cox, Ryan McCauley and Cayden Sanchez, it's possible that per game average drops significantly.
"I'm pretty excited about the defensive group. I think we can be very, very good," Colosimo said. "We have kids that are stepping up and I don't know if we're going to be as good early but we certainly have the potential to be a real good defensive football team by the end of the year."
Juan Diego Soaring Eagle at a glance
Coach: John Colosimo is entering his 12th season as head coach at Juan Diego with a 107-26 record. In 24 years of coaching experience, the Judge Memorial graduate has garnered a 153-101 record.
(6 returning starters; Triple Option)
It comes as no surprise that Juan Diego lost quite a few productive players to graduation from last year's team. It happens every year, but still — come November, it's one of the most talented offensive teams in the state. Look for Garn to establish himself as one of the biggest threats in 3A.
(6 returning starters; base 5-2)
This group has the potential to be one of the best defensive teams Juan Diego has produced. It returns more than half of its starters from the top-ranked defense in 3A.
"Our strength will be our defense as we have good speed, size and experience," said Colosimo.
Every season Juan Diego has a player who was relatively unknown in the preseason step up and become an All-State caliber player — this year safety Sharrieff Shah fits the mold. He's the son of current University of Utah sideline reporter and former player, Sharrieff Shah Sr.
Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 10 prediction: First
Bottom line: It's almost redundant to say that Juan Diego has a good shot of repeating as state champions. This is a very talented team, as usual, but this year is different. The Soaring Eagle is looking one of the hardest schedules in 3A square in the eye. Is it possible for a fourth-straight championship? Absolutely. However, it's going to be a true testament to the program if it's able to do so.
Aug. 19 — SALEM HILLS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Manti, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — SPRINGVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — GRANGER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Uintah, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Park City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — UNION, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — at Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.