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Note: Kearns finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2011 and was 3-2 in Region 2 in 2011. It lost to Bingham, 38-0, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
KEARNS — Sometimes life's greatest opportunities feel more like a blow than a blessing.
After losing four starters and seven players to transfers to Bingham and Woods Cross, Kearns' football players definitely feel like they've taken some shots this offseason. But they also say they're working harder, are more dedicated and are closer to each other than ever before.
And that is something for which they are all grateful.
Three starting offensive linemen transferred to Bingham this spring, a move head coach Bill Cosper said he's fighting. Another player, a younger brother of a starter, also transferred to Bingham, while three other players left to go to Woods Cross.
Cosper said his players felt a little betrayed by the moves, but instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they have channeled that anger and frustration into extra effort throughout summer workouts. Nearly all of Kearns' 11 remaining returning starters said the chemistry of the team is the best it's ever been.
The losses have forced the team to adapt.
"Where it hurts us the most is in the depth of the offensive line," said Cosper.
But even with the loss of four offensive starters, Cosper said the Cougars should be competitive in region play.
"Our defense is really good," he said. "I think we can do really well. We have to stay healthy."
Senior Lehigh Afatasi said the players see the chance to play new positions as an opportunity, not a burden.
"Instead of looking at it negatively, we're just looking at it like this: I'd rather be on the field than on the sideline," he said.
Afatasi believes playing offensive tackle will make him a better defensive player.
"The techniques are different and new, but it's fun," he said. "Now I know the secrets of an offensive lineman."
When asked what he expects of this year's team he kept it simple.
"I expect great effort," Afatasi said. "Obviously we do not have the biggest players, but we do have the biggest heart. They'd never give up."
Junior Colton Grossaint isn't worried about the absence of those who transferred, and in fact, said it has brought the remaining players closer together.
"I think we've learned how to handle adversity — facing it and overcoming it," he said.
Grossaint said they may have to get creative, but everyone is willing to do whatever is necessary for the team to succeed.
"We'll use some of our skill players as linemen," he said. "But if we stay healthy, I think we can do really well. ... I'm one of the kids who has to be used, but we just want to do what's best for the team."
He said changing positions, especially from one side of the ball to the other, has been a challenge.
"It's hard because we have to adapt, learn all of the different positions and know what everyone is supposed to be doing," Grossaint said.
Senior safety Jeremy Frieze agrees that tough times have made the Cougars stronger.
"We're a really tight team this year," he said. "When coaches tell us to do something, we do it. Everyone pays attention."
Defensive end Isaac Yarber, a senior, will add offensive tackle to his duties.