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Note: Rich finished a 5-6 overall record and was fourth in its region with a 3-3 record in 2011. It lost to Duchesne in the 1A semifinals.
RANDOLPH — Another year, another high school football season and the same old challenge for Rich High and the rest of the 1A teams in Utah:
How do they stop Duchesne from winning another state championship?
After all, the Duchesne Eagles have soared to back-to-back 1A titles, and last year they absolutely pulverized most of their opponents, averaging over 42 points per game while allowing less than 9 per game.
With an average margin of victory of more than 33 points, it's no wonder the Eagles went 12-0.
One of Duchesne's victims along the way was Rich, which dropped a 42-0 decision during the regular season, then suffered a lopsided 46-0 loss to the Eagles in the state semifinals.
Rich, the 2009 state champion and a perennial state playoff team which has reached postseason play all in 27 years of its existence, dropped an overtime duel to Duchesne in the 2010 title game.
As Rebels coach Ashley Brown begins his 13th season at the school, he figures the Eagles are still the big bird in 1A until somebody comes along to knock them off their high perch.
"Duchesne is the team to beat," Brown said. "They've won it the last two years and until somebody beats them, they're still the team to beat.
"They lost a lot of good kids off last year's team, but they had a good JV and have got a good program."
Rich has a good program, too, and with a squad featuring 10 returning starters, the Rebels have their sights set on shooting down the Eagles this season.
Austin Groll, a senior and returning starter at quarterback, leads the way for the Rich offense. "He's got experience now," Brown said, "and we expect a lot out of him. He does both run and pass well."
Groll will be backed up by junior QB McKay Jarman.
At running back, senior Kaden Thomson is another returning starter, and he led the team in rushing last year. But he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee and missed the state 1A semifinal game.
"He did a good job for us," Brown said. "But we had to let his knee heal."
Several players are battling for the starting job at fullback.
The Rebels don't have any of their top wide receivers returning from last year, so sophomore Wyatt Muirbrook and juniors Vance Weston and Skyler Argyle must step in to fill the void. One of them will move over to play tight end.
Kade Earley, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior center, is the big man in the middle of the Rebels' offensive line and does a good job, and he's joined by senior guard Bradley Gurr, another returning starter.
But the other O-line spots are up for grabs at this point, with several players fighting for them.
On defense, the Rebels have six returning starters, including Groll, Thomson and senior Dyson Barker at linebacker, Earley at defensive tackle, McKay Jarman at defensive end and sophomore Cache Sabey at free safety.
But after that, Brown isn't sure at this juncture who his other defensive end, tackle or defensive backs will be.
"We've got some holes to fill," he said. "We've got to fill some holes on the offensive and defensive lines. But we've got some goods skill kids coming back.
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