High school football: Lone Peak Knights 2012 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Note: Lone Peak finished 14-0 overall and 5-0 in region play in 2011. It won the 5A state championship, 41-21, over Fremont.

HIGHLAND — After running the table in 2011 and taking the 5A state championship, Lone Peak is starting the 2012 season with a big target on its back.

That could be both a good thing and a bad thing — good in that the team now has a very personal reference for what it takes to get on top and bad in that, well, there’s a target on its back.

“Everyone wants to beat the team on top, so I’m sure we’ll get everyone’s best game,” said senior linebacker Spencer Reinstein. “We certainly can’t take anyone lightly, but I don’t think this team will. We’re not last year’s team, but we can do great things like we did last year.”

Accomplishing what last year’s team did will be no small feat and the Knights will have to do so with several notable departures. First and foremost is replacing one of the more dominant players in Utah prep history — quarterback Chase Hansen.

Braden Miles and Jordan transfer Baron Gajkowski are currently competing for the starting quarterback spot. No winner has been declared leading up to the season.

“I love it here at Lone Peak,” said Gajkowski. “The coaching staff really cares for their players and it’s a great opportunity for me to help out playing on a great team. I couldn’t be more happy to be here at Lone Peak.”

Miles has previously been in Hansen’s shadow and understands how difficult it will be to replace Hansen, the superstar who was named Mr. Football in 2011

“Chase was obviously great, but I can’t worry about what he did and just concentrate on what I can do,” said Miles. “I have a lot of great guys around me, so we’re confident entering the season. We just can’t worry about expectations and what we did last year and just play our own game.”

Of course, Lone Peak isn't trying to just replace Hansen. Other key players from last year's title-winning team are also gone, including receiver Zac Saunders and Micah Hannemann. Austin McChesney will try to replace a lot of what Saunders brought to the team along with Talon Shumway, who is one of the most capable playmakers in the state.

“Talon is a special kid who has had to battle through some injuries, but we think he’ll be close to 100 percent this season,” said Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary. “We’re going to try and get the ball in his hands as much as possible. He can do it as a receiver, running back and he’s going to play some more defense for us. He’ll be a huge part of our offense.”

While offense drove the machine for much of last season, defense may take the steering wheel this year.

“I feel really good about our team defensively, and on offense it’s probably going to take some time,” said McGeary. “So we may go from a team that scores a lot of points to a team that doesn’t give up a lot of points, but you win games in any way you can.

"So I feel good about this team’s potential.”

Leading the defense are linebackers Josh Buck and Reinstein. Both are comfortable leading not only the defense, but the entire team.

“Our defense is definitely going to be the strength this year,” said Reinstein. “We’ve already been together for a long time. We have a good flow going. And we’re ready to lead the way.”

Other top players on defense include defensive linemen Levi Fiso, Austin Kruger, linebacker Payton Thomas and defensive backs Matt Criddle and Matt Dastrup.

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