Note: Judge Memorial finished with a 7-6 overall record in 2010 and a 2-3 record in Region 11. It lost to Juan Diego, 13-7, in the state 3A semifinals.
SALT LAKE CITY — Talk about the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Judge Memorial football team that started the season last year compared to the team that went toe-to-toe with the eventual state champions in the 3A semifinals were two completely different teams.
In the final two games of the regular season, the Bulldogs were outscored by Logan and Morgan 61-17 to finish below .500 with a 4-5 record.
Luckily for Judge, that was good enough to earn a spot in the Region 11 play-in game against Grantsville. In their best offensive outing of the season, the Bulldogs advanced to the first round and followed suit with upsets against Cedar and Wasatch before ultimately falling in the fourth quarter of the semifinals.
"We struggled a lot last season. We knew what we were, we just struggled with how to get there last year," said Judge coach James Cordova. "We had a moment where that play-in game really helped us gel. It gave us a short week and a challenge, and I think that's kind of what these guys needed.
"It got our confidence goin' and it's carried over to this season. We've had an outstanding camp so far, and I can't wait for the season to kick off."
Judge Memorial will have to replace quarterback James Delacenserie, who threw for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Right now, the Bulldogs are in the midst of a two-man quarterback battle.
Both senior Jack Barnett and junior Joe Cremer are taking first-team reps midway through two-a-day practices.
"We really don't know at this point. We have to see how everything plays out, if they both deserve the reps, they'll both get the reps," said Cordova. "If one of them takes over, we'll go with one quarterback. I wasn't a quarterback, I was a linebacker and a fullback. To me, quarterback is just another position."
However, Cordova did mention Barnett's leadership skills as a defying attribute.
"(Barnett has) done an outstanding job as a player and a leader. He's been very impressive, he's got great feet, throws the ball well and he's in charge."
Back again this season is one of the most explosive return men in the state, Christian Weidel. He's also a threat on motion sweeps and in the passing game outside the hashes.
"Having a kid like that, that fast and that dynamic with the ball, makes things a whole lot easier," Cordova said of Weidel.
Judge struggled with staying healthy last year, losing many expected contributors to season-ending injuries — most notably, Aaron Isacson.
If Isacson can stay on the field after missing the previous two seasons with injuries, he should be a major factor for the Bulldogs this season.
"It's hard. We're a small school in 3A; we do the best we can with what we've got. Injuries are part of the game, you've just got to adapt," said Cordova. "Whether you're 72nd string or first string, you matter to the program. We take that seriously; we work hard and believe in the team mentality. If one guy goes down, the next guy steps up."
Judge Memorial Bulldogs at a glance
Coach: James Cordova is entering his ninth season as the head coach at Judge, amassing a 47-46 record in that time span. He is also a graduate of Judge Memorial High.
(Six returning starters; Flexbone option)
In an option-based offense, the key to success is excellent blocking. That just so happens to be the strongest area for the Bulldogs, with several buffet-busters returning. Both Matt Crispo and Mat Lewis should be instrumental on the line this season. This is an offense that came on strong at the end of the year, averaging over 25 points in the final four games. With six returning starters, this could be a breakout season with the football.
(Four returning starters; base 4-3 scheme)
Defensive lineman Miles Ellis returns after leading the team in tackles (79) as a junior. "Miles has gone from about 190 pounds to about 220 pounds and he is a load," said Cordova. "He'll play some nose guard and D-end this year for us. He's big, he's strong and he is fast." The defense needs to improve this season after giving up over 20 points six times last season — four of which ended with losses.
Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 10 prediction: FourthComment on this story
Bottom Line: If Judge is unable to make the playoffs, it would be considered a highly disappointing season. If it wasn't for the topsy-turvy play from start to finish, the Bulldogs would be ranked higher. This team brings back lots of potential and talent, but it's a waiting game to see which Judge team comes out this season. If it can capitalize on the experience and momentum it enjoyed in the playoffs this could be a sneaker team.
Aug. 19 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — OGDEN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Grantsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — GRANGER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Spanish Fork, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Union, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Park City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — JUAN DIEGO, 7 p.m.