2013 high school football preview: Title-hungry Bountiful Braves aiming to go further this season
Note: Bountiful finished with a 9-3 overall record in 2012 and tied for first in Region 6 with a 4-1 record. It lost to Mountain Crest 41-0 in the 4A quarterfinals.
BOUNTIFUL — The sunlight had yet to peak over the Wasatch Mountains. Birds chirped. Dew settled as members of the neighborhood jogged around the high school track. The day was still in slumber. Yet, inside the weight room at Bountiful High, the music of AC/DC echoed. The Braves aren't afraid to work in twilight.
The calendar has circled back once again, and the 2013 prep football season is slightly more than three weeks away. For the Braves, nothing has changed.
“We plan on being in the playoffs. That isn’t good enough,” Bountiful coach Larry Wall said. “At a lot of places if you make it that’s great. Our guys aren’t satisfied with the quarterfinals. We definitely want to get back up to the U.”
Those expectations experienced an abrupt end last season. Bountiful, riddled with injuries, absorbed a kick to the teeth in the 4A quarterfinals with an uncharacteristic 41-0 loss to Mountain Crest. It added another year without a championship — a drought extending back to 2003 for the revered program.
“Hard work,” receiver Tanner Redding said when asked what it’ll take to hang another banner. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys here — great athletes. There’s no reason (we) can’t, so just hard work and coming together as a team.”
In losses last year, the Braves struggled finding the end zone. The inconsistency could be attributed to injuries and inexperience.
In the season opener against Lone Peak, starting quarterback Trevor Lloyd suffered a torn ACL. Then, Jordan Hayes, who challenged Lloyd for the starting nod in the offseason, commanded the huddle until he broke his collarbone against Woods Cross.
“Both are back; both are healthy,” Wall said. “It’s going to be a great battle. We may need them both, I’m sure, as the season unfolds.”
The two are intertwined in an offseason quarterback battle once again. A starter hasn't been named yet.
“It’s pretty much a dead heat right now, and time will tell throughout the summer and probably through the season,” Wall explained. “I could see a scenario where we’ll be using both of them in some way. Both of them are great leaders, very intelligent, very athletic, so it’ll be interesting.”
With two viable options at quarterback coupled with arguably the best receiving corps in 29 years under Wall, the typically rush-dominated offense will likely undergo moderate changes.
“We’ve got guys that can throw the ball and guys that can catch it,” Wall said. “Obviously we’re going to try and expand a little bit in that way, maybe do some things that we haven’t done in the past — not change a whole lot but add a little bit to our package.”
Redding and Sam Merrill, who collectively grabbed 61 receptions for 888 yards and eight touchdowns last year, are both 6-foot-4, athletic receivers at opposite hashes. Both possess the ability to separate across the middle and corral jump balls at the pinnacle of flight. In short-yardage and scoring situations they’re used frequently in quick slants.
Ryan Curtis, whose style Wall compared to Wes Welker, will transition into a more prominent role at the slot position to add another threat.
“He’s kind of our do-everything guy. He plays both ways, plays linebacker, kick returner, holder, punter, slot,” Wall said. “Great hands, very athletic — we’re excited about him.”
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