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Note: Salem Hills finished with a 2-8 overall record and was seventh in Region 8 with a 2-5 record in 2011. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.
SALEM — New Salem Hills coach Joel Higginson was born in Salem Hills, grew to love the community and loves the potential of the Skyhawk football program. He’ll have his work cut out for him, however, coaching a team that has won four games the past two seasons and is picked to finish last in Region 8.
As Maple Mountain proved last year, however, things can be turned around and turned around quite quickly.
Entering last season, Maple Mountain, which is just down the street, was the consensus pick to bottom-feed in Region 8 and ended up finishing second.
“Maple Mountain proved last year that you can rise above your expectations and turn things around quickly,” said Higginson. “It takes great coaching, which they have there, and kids that are willing to work, and hopefully we prove to have both of those things here.”
It won’t be easy for Salem Hills to rise above the last-place expectations, though. Higginson is in his first year and is attempting to overhaul the team’s entire offensive system and overall attitude.
To rise above expectations takes trust and a helpful attitude from the players. Just a few months into his new job, Higginson believes his team has those two things.
“I love the attitude of these kids and I love how they’ve responded to what we’ve asked them to do so far,” said Higginson. “We obviously have a lot of work to do to change this into a winning program, but I believe we’re willing to do that work.”
Along with attitude comes a simple belief that things can be turned around.
“It sounds cliché, but I truly believe that you have to go into (it) truly believing that you can come out on top,” said Higginson. “For years there’s been a losing attitude here and we need to turn that around. We need to bring these kids to the point where they expect to win and expect to be on top and that isn’t easy.”
For his first season, Higginson believes his team can make some big strides.
His players agree.
“It’s a lot different this year with coach Higginson,” said senior Zac Lundell. “We needed a new start I think and coach Higginson is so motivated to win and he makes you want to play football for him. In past years I don’t know if a lot of us really enjoyed playing, but I think that’s changing a lot this year. We’re motivated and we’re excited to play.”
Lundell will help lead the defense from his cornerback position where he started and saw a lot of success last season. The strength of the defense looks to be at linebacker and in the secondary.
“We really like our cover corners and our linebacking crew is very strong,” said Higginson.
The defensive line will be led by senior Nick Stones.
“I’ve been around a lot of football players, but I don’t know anyone who works as hard as hard as Nick Stones,” said Higginson. “He comes to work every day and puts his sweat on and just does whatever is necessary to be his best.”
On offense Higginson is still looking for a quarterback, but believes he has some good options in Kyle Tarter, Garrett McEwen and Scotty Lyman. Tarter is more of a running threat while McEwen and Lyman have strong arms.
The strength of the offense looks to be at receiver where Zack Zobell returns and hopes to lead the way.
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