High school football: Maple Mountain Golden Eagles 2012 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

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Note: Maple Mountain finished with a 7-4 record and a 5-2 region record in 2011. It lost to Highland, 42-20, in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

SPANISH FORK — Entering his fourth year at Maple Mountain, coach Brad Burtenshaw is still trying to establish traditions in his young football program that exist in programs that have been around for much longer.

It's certainly not an easy thing to do, and it's something he admits has taken longer than he hoped when he became the program's first head coach. However, while Maple Mountain's football team is still searching for specific traditions, last season Burtenshaw's team worked to establish the most important tradition of all — winning.

The Golden Eagles finished 2011 with a 7-4 record and a second-place finish in Region 8 after being picked to finish dead last in the preseason.

“The credit goes to the kids and the hard work they put in,” said Burtenshaw of last year’s success. “I think it was just a result of us maturing as a program. It was our third year and I think we just needed that time to find our identity as a program and, in some ways, we’re still looking for that identity — those traditions that define programs.

But winning games sure helps.”

The goal now is to simply keep it going, and with a good core of returning players at key positions, the team is confident it can build on last year’s success.

Leading the group of returning players is quarterback KJ Hall, who came up big in his first year starting last season.

“KJ is a tremendous athlete and he’s put in the work to be even better this season,” said Burtenshaw. “He’s worked on his strength and his speed and with that first year under his belt — I think he’ll be able to do some special things for us this year.”

Having a good quarterback on defense is important as well, and the Golden Eagles have one in senior middle linebacker CJ Hildebrand. Hildebrand is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound enforcer who has started since his sophomore year.

“CJ Hildebrand is basically a heat-seeking missile,” said Burtenshaw. “He’s exactly the type of player you want in the middle of your defense and he’s worked hard every offseason and he should be the best he’s been this season.”

It’s also imperative to have good experience up front and Maple Mountain looks to have exactly that, returning three of its five starters from a year ago. Senior Tyler Boyer anchors both the offensive and defensive fronts and will be counted on heavily to win the battle in the trenches.

“We’re strong where we need to be, but we also have a lot of other holes that we need to fill,” said Burtenshaw. “You don’t just lose 31 seniors and not have that affect you. We’ll need to find some key replacements — especially at running back, receiver and in the secondary. We have talented guys at those positions, but we’re young, so we’ll need guys to step up there.”

Burtenshaw understands the expectations for his team will rise significantly this season, but he feels his players are up to the challenge.

“We can’t surprise anyone anymore — teams aren’t going to take us lightly and every game is a tough game in Region 8,” said Burtenshaw. “We have some good leadership and we now have kids who know how to win football games, so it’s important that we keep doing that. We need to show people that our play last year is who we are and that we can improve on what we did last year.”

Maple Mountain Golden Eagles at a glance