High school football: North Summit Braves 2012 preview

Published: Sunday, July 29 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

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Note: North Summit finished with a 6-5 overall record and was fourth in the 2A North region with a 4-3 record in 2011. It lost to San Juan, 38-0, in the quarterfinals of the 2A playoffs.

COALVILLE — North Summit enjoyed a so-so football season under first-year coach Devin Smith last year.

The Braves beat the teams you’d expect them to beat and lost to the teams you’d expect them to lose to. The manner in which they lost those games, however, is something Smith has been addressing since January.

“The kids always played hard, but when we played the upper-tier teams we got thrown around physically a bit,” said Smith.

To say North Summit got thrown around a bit is an understatement. In five losses last year, the Braves were outscored 164-12, including a 38-0 quarterfinal loss to San Juan.

With dwindling enrollment numbers in North Summit’s sophomore and junior classes, Smith and his coaching staff have taken a proactive approach to address the problem. They hired Bigger, Faster, Stronger to put on a weight lifting clinic in January, and they’ve encouraged the kids to buy into more frequent and regimented weight-lifting over the past seven months.

For the most part the kids have bought in, and Smith said, “I think it’s going to make a big difference.”

He’ll find out early this season whether his players' commitment in the weight room makes a difference as North Summit opens with road games at Beaver, Duchesne and Millard.

Team unity is another thing that could make a difference this year. Smith said the players on this year’s team get along really well, and jokingly said they’re like a pack of thieves because they hang out so much.

“They have great team chemistry, and I’ve been around long enough to know that’s important,” said Smith.

Defense, which was often a weak spot in 2011, should be a strength this season. Not only does Smith expect good things from his four returning starters, but from the newcomers as well.

A healthy and stronger Austin Scholes will make a big difference at linebacker. A junior last year, Scholes injured his knee in a season-opening victory over Beaver and didn’t return to the field until Week 6.

He averaged 6.1 tackles per game when he returned and will anchor the defense in 2012.

“I feel 100 percent. My knee is so much better and also my shoulder,” said Scholes. “It’s going to be a great year. We have a bunch of dedicated seniors.”

Scholes said getting knocked around by the likes of San Juan, Manti and Millard was definitely a learning experience last year.

North Summit doesn’t have a lot of size defensively, but what it does have is an athletic, aggressive bunch that is anxious to get after it.

“We’re going to run the 4-6 like we did last year. We’re going to put on pressure. It’s a little bit of a high risk-, high reward-type defense,” said Smith.

Offensively, North Summit is starting from scratch with the graduation of its three leading rushers. Ben Stephens, who played in a pair of games for injured Keegan McQueen last year, is taking over at quarterback, while senior Brandon Thiriot and junior Trevor Hale take over at running back in the option offense.

Stephens qualified for the 2A 100-meter dash final at the state track & field meet back in May and brings a speed dimension to the back field.

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