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Note: Syracuse finished with an 8-4 overall record and was fourth in Region with a 2-3 record in 2011. It lost to Fremont in the 5A semifinals.
SYRACUSE — Coach Russ Jones likes being the underdog, that unheralded team that defies all the odds and finds a way to knock off the heavy favorite.
His Syracuse High football team certainly played that role to perfection last season, using a fierce and fantastic defensive effort to stun both Alta and West in the 5A playoffs, vaulting the Titans into the state semifinals.
Well, he's not going to get his wish this season because, after a fourth-place Region 1 finish last year, Syracuse has emerged as the top team to beat in this year's league championship chase.
"I'd rather not be in that role; I've always liked being the underdog," said Jones, the only head football coach Syracuse High has ever had. "Personally, I like that role a lot better.
"I think Davis is the team to beat myself. But I think there's going to be three or four teams right there in the top. It'll be a dogfight right to the end, I think. I don't think you're gonna know who won the region until the last week of the season."
And, chances are, the Titans will be right there in the thick of things, even though they've only got a handful of returning starters from last year's team that finished 8-4 overall and nearly knocked off Region 1 champ Fremont in the 5A semifinals.
Jones begins his sixth season at the Syracuse High helm with a solid blend of seniors and underclassmen who should make 2012 another one of those years when folks will have plenty of reasons to "Remember the Titans."
At quarterback, senior Brock Anderson moves into the starting role after serving as the school's junior varsity signal-caller last year, when he earned first team all-state honors as a kicker.
"He's pretty excited," Jones said of Anderson. "He's just a good overall athlete."
But there are plenty of other running backs hoping for an opportunity to carry the ball this season, including junior Kavika Fonua, senior Myles Naisbitt, juniors Wyatt German and Trevor Olsen, senior Landon Ostler, junior Will Haddick, seniors Jordan Bush and Dillon Spencer and juniors Austin Coons, Kyler Roberts, Teague Vigil and Wes Tippetts.
At the flanker/slotback position, senior Jacob Garver and Diante Mitchell give Jones a great pair to draw to, and they'll be backed up by Bush, senior Jace Skidmore, junior Colton Chadwick, senior Logan Chapman, junior Bryson Flint and Tyler Olpin.
Athletic seniors Koa Mo'o and Diante Mitchell are the top two wide receivers, with Garver, juniors Josh Homer, Diondre Watson, Karson Nielson and Hudson Gooch, seniors Kiwa Mo'o, Nate Price, Austin Hansen and Austin Evans and juniors Jackson Craythorne, Alec Gallegos, David Jensen, Spencer Miller and Preston Morris providing depth.
At tight end, seniors Kiwa Mo'o and Landon O'Camb are the top two candidates, with senior Tyler Gilbert and juniors Mike Checketts, Justin Lee, Caleb Martinez, Blake Taurone and Riley Wilcox backing them up.
Junior Aspen Naylor or senior Noah Sorenson will start at center, backed up by Trevor Michaels. At offensive guard, senior Hayden Barney and juniors Caden Call and Kaden Craig are battling for the two starting jobs, with junior Cade Stanger providing depth there.