Note: Park City finished with a 6-4 overall record in 2010 and a 4-0 record in Region 10. It lost to Emery, 26-23, in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
PARK CITY — When a new coach changes offenses, there's always a sizeable learning curve for the players who are used to something completely different.
That was the case for Park City last year under new coach Kai Smalley, who made the drastic shift from the triple option to the spread offense. The Miners lost three of their first four games — all by 20-plus points — before getting things figured out in region play and claiming the Region 10 title.
With six returning starters on offense, including Deseret News first team all-state quarterback Paul Flake and first-team all-state receiver Jono Schettler, the Miners should be much improved in the first month of the season. They'll need to be, too, with a tough preseason schedule and an even tougher region schedule which now includes Juan Diego and Judge Memorial.
"We need to go in with confidence and the feeling that it's been our region championship the past three years, but at the same time we have Juan Diego coming in our region with three straight state championships," said Smalley.
Region 10 has been a very weak football region the past few years with Union, Carbon and American Leadership virtual gimme victories. Those days are long gone with Juan Diego entering the mix.
Regardless of who Park City must battle in region play, Smalley is confident in the experienced group he has coming back.
"I'm excited about the senior class we have because we've got guys coming back with a lot of experience," he said. "You always feel good when you have an all-state quarterback and an all-state receiver returning. It's fun watching those guys and they have a pretty good connection."
Flake will be a busy guy this year. Not only will he be trying to eclipse the 2,227 yards he threw for last year, but this year he'll be playing defense too.
"In my opinion, he's a linebacker who plays quarterback," said Smalley.
Flake definitely benefits from having Schettler as his primary wide out. Smalley said Schettler is a typical receiver who thinks he's always open and he'll let his quarterback know it. That competitiveness is what makes him such a highly-recruited receiver.
"He doesn't like to lose," said Smalley.
Defensively, Park City will see a variety of different offenses this year ranging from the triple option, to the veer, to the spread. It will need to be successful against all three if it expects to win a region championship.
"I feel good about our defense. I feel confident they understand what they're supposed to do and what their responsibilities are, and they communicate well with each other," said Smalley.
Park City Miners at a glance
Coach: Kai Smalley is entering his second year as head coach at Park City following a 6-4 inaugural season. He's a graduate of South Salem High School in Oregon.
(6 returning starters; Spread offense)
Park City should feature one of the highest-scoring offenses in 3A led by Flake and Schettler. Heath Vincent is another talented receiver who will benefit from already have a year of experience with the spread offense. Finch is a projected starter on the offensive line, but depending on the progress of some of the other lineman, he might shift to tight end.
(7 returning starters)
The Miners' linebacking core should be one of the better groups in 3A. Conner Lagnese is the leading returning tackler for Park City, while Finch and Flake are both tremendous athletes too. The secondary could be a strength as well with Schettler, Drue Olsen and James Morris starting.
Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 10 prediction: Second
Bottom line: Under normal circumstances, Park City would be the favorite to repeat as region champions. With Juan Diego joining Region 10 though, the Soaring Eagle instantly become the favorites. Park City is still talented enough to win the region title, but preseason games against Spanish Fork and Delta will likely reveal if that's a realistic possibility.
Aug. 19 — SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Stansbury, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Duchesne, 6 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Delta, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — JUAB, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — UNION, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Uintah, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — JUAN DIEGO, 7 p.m.7 comments on this story
Oct. 14 — JUDGE MEMORIAL, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at Wasatch, 7 p.m.