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Note: Emery finished with a 6-5 overall record and was fifth in the 2A North region with a 3-4 record in 2011. It lost to Manti, 34-6, in the quarterfinals of the 2A playoffs.
CASTLE DALE — The word “loaded” has been used by numerous 2A coaches this year to describe Emery’s football team.
With eight returning starters on offense and defense, it’s hard to argue with that claim. It’s the quality of those starters that has raised the expectation level at Emery.
The linebackers are of the 185- to 190-pound variety, instead of the 160-pound variety that’s common in 2A — and they can run well too. The skill-position players are very athletic, led by returning first-team all-stater Cory Cox. The offensive line is experienced with three returning starters.
With so many strengths, coach Jim Jones is cautiously optimistic his team can compete with the upper-echelon teams in the 2A North region like Manti, Millard and South Summit.
“We’re a lot further ahead at this time than we were last year. Last year, it was like starting from scratch,” said Jones, whose team still put together a winning record in its first year after dropping down from 3A.
Despite the returning experience, Emery is still fairly young with six juniors projected to start. They’re quality kids though, which bodes well for 2012 and 2013.
The biggest question mark for the Spartans this season is: Will they have toughness defensively?
“Last year we were real young, and when we played teams who threw the ball we were successful. We beat those kinds of teams. Teams that really ran the ball well — Manti, Millard, South Summit, even North Summit — we struggled with those teams,” said Jones. “We need to become more physical defensively, and we’ve got to be better stopping the run.”
In those games against run-oriented region foes last year, Emery lost to Manti 28-0 and 34-6, lost to South Summit 40-15, lost to Millard 36-27 and lost to North Summit 43-29.
Emery’s defense got a boost with move-in Kaden Feichko, a strong, athletic player who will start at linebacker alongside Cox.
A move-out, however, has hurt the offense. Junior running back Dominic Rondinelli transferred to Carbon a year after rushing for 644 yards and three TDs for the Spartans.
“It hurts 'cause he’s a really good football player,” said Jones.
David Dyer, a wide receiver last year, will slide into Rondinelli’s starting spot in the Jet offense. A year ago, Dyer led Emery with 12 receptions for 253 yards and five TDs.
“He’s not a real big kid, but he’s a quick, athletic kid (and) has good football instincts,” said Jones.
Marco Mota is another strong returning running back for the Spartans, while Spencer Labrum is back at quarterback. He’s a big kid who's not incredibly mobile, but he runs the offense really well and throws it well too.
All will benefit from an experienced offense line.
“It seems like when you’re starting out with kids, it takes you a year or two to make sure they know exactly what they’re doing, and then you can start working on the little things that can kind of make or break you. That’s the point we’re at. We know what we’re doing and now we can work on the little nuances of the offense,” said Jones.
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