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Note: Alta finished with a 9-2 overall record and won the Region 3 title with a 5-0 record in 2011. It lost to Syracuse, 16-10, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
Coach Bob Stephens has been down this path before.
Back in 2007 when he was an assistant coach, Alta had a tough decision to make between senior Ryan Rosenvall and junior Ammon Olsen.
“It kind of reminds me of that whole scenario 'cause we were unsure with both of them right up until the end,” said Stephens.
In fact, both Rosenvall and Olsen got to play a half in Alta’s season-opening victory over Spanish Fork. Rosenvall clearly rose to the occasion on that night, won the job and was eventually named the Deseret News 5A MVP for leading the Hawks to the state championship.
A year later, Olsen led Alta to another state title and was also named 5A MVP.
Back in 2007, Stephens didn’t have to make the final decision. However, now that’s he’s the head coach it’s his call.
“It’s too hard to tell right now. Probably when we get into two-a-days when one clearly starts to emerge we’ll make that decision. If no one does, it may be Timpview (in Week 1) when we make that decision,” said Stephens.
Both Rivas and Lucero are outstanding athletes with strong arms and a good understanding of the spread offense. Both threw about a dozen passes at the varsity level last season with each tossing a touchdown.
Both have Division I talent, and Handley already has offers from Utah, Utah State and BYU. Two weeks ago Handley was invited to participate in the Elite 11 camp in California and he was named the camp’s top receiver by the coaches. Barker is back after leading Alta with six receiving TDs last year to go along with his 335 receiving yards.
After Handley and Barker though, there are a ton of questions marks surrounding the football team in the final year before the split with new Corner Canyon High School.
Alta only returns one other starter on offense and zero starters on defense.
“Last year we were very senior heavy, so a lot of these kids were just biding their time, waiting for their opportunity,” said Stephens. “We have some good talent coming in. They’re just not tested.”
Everyone is hungry to make amends for last season. Alta went into the 5A playoffs regarded as the biggest threat to knock off No. 1 Lone Peak. Instead, it was stunned in the first round by Syracuse, which played phenomenal defense en route to a 16-10 win.
Injuries to Alta’s starting running back and quarterback didn’t help, but Stephens said it shouldn’t take away from what Syracuse accomplished.
“I’ll never take anything away from Syracuse. They deserved the win and they earned the win,” he said.
“As far as this year, me as a coach it definitely re-motivates me and it re-motivates my staff to really put in the extra time and effort. I remind these kids: It’s not easy. When you get to the playoffs it’s one and done. You can’t take anything for granted and anything lightly. You have to go in every game like it’s your last game,” said Stephens.