Note: Corner Canyon will participate in Region 7 during its inaugural campaign. The addition of the program boosts the state to 103 teams for the 2013 season.
DRAPER — The ceiling is generally dropped pretty low for first-year programs. Developing the cohesion necessary to succeed is acquired over time, and entirely new groups are obviously behind the eight ball in that regard.
Corner Canyon, however, isn’t expecting to be a scout team punching bag on Friday nights anytime soon. The Chargers plan to bypass the “struggle stage” and compete immediately.
“I feel we can win every game,” said Chargers coach Don Eck, who has 30 years of coaching experience but is embarking on his first stint at the high school level. “We’re going to set goals here pretty quick as a team — we’ve already set some for camp — but I think when we set our team goals for the season, obviously No. 1 is going to be to win our region. I think that’s a legitimate, approachable goal.”
The offensive line is typically the last unit to gain enough familiarity to be effective in game situations, but behind the instruction of Eck — who played offensive line at Utah from 1980-82 and coached the position at Utah, James Madison (Va.) University and Weber State — the acclimation period is accelerating faster than expected.
“When we finished up spring ball and summer camp, that was probably the weak spot of our team — probably still is in some facets — but they’re getting better every day,” Eck said. “I hope by the time we line up with Juan Diego they’re going to be a functional group. In my mind, right now, I’m trying to keep everything simple, so they don’t have to think too much and they can come off the ball. It just gives them a chance to be successful and just play football.”
Branden Bowen is a mountain at right tackle. The junior, who transferred from Juan Diego, checks in at 6-7 and 250 pounds. He’s joined by Sam Dalsasso at right guard, center Jake Hatfield, either Grant Nielsen or Luke Herrmann at left guard and left tackle Keaton Bills, who is only a sophomore.
“One of the things that helped is we picked up four big guys either from moving in from other states or transferring from other schools — two of which are starters right now,” Eck explained. “It helps having pretty good players, and I feel like our starting offensive line is pretty good. It has been the last group that’s come together.”
Those five are dealt the task of protecting junior quarterback Michael Ebeling, who Eck believes will eventually become a household name.
“Anybody that doesn’t know about Michael Ebeling right now, I venture to guess by the time this year is over they’ll know all about him,” Eck said. “He’s very good with his feet. He’s a very good passer — throws really well on the move — and can throw pretty decent in the pocket. He has more arm strength than I thought he would have. He’s going to give us a real legitimate shot to have a good offense.”
Corner Canyon Chargers at a glance
Coach: Don Eck enters his first season as a high school coach after accumulating 30 years of coaching experience at the college and arena football level. He’s a graduate of Sante Fe High in California and the University of Utah.
(Multiple set offense)
Eck described the offense as “100 percent multiple” with the ability to stretch the defense with five-wide or line up in various pro-set formations. The scheme will primarily center around four runners and specifically Riley Ogden, who transferred from Alta.
“We have a bit of a spread offense here, which is what they run dominantly at Alta, and so you can take some of those abilities from that offense over here,” Ogden said.
Cole Parkinson, who Eck tabbed as “smaller and a little faster” and an “outside runner,” will spell Ogden throughout the game. Jacob Kunkel, a third-down back, and Tyson Rogers will also see action in the backfield.
During a recent practice the defensive secondary dictated the pace with athleticism and visible speed — ultimately snagging three interceptions. Currently the defense is vastly ahead of the offense, but that’s expected at this point in the season.
“The skill guys from day one in this group have been fabulous,” Eck said. “We do have speed and athletic guys. That’s kind of the strong suit.”
Similar to the offense, the Chargers aren't overwhelmed with any one formation defensively, but rotate typical four- and three-down fronts.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: SixthComment on this story
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: Optimism is never a deterrent quality in a football program. As Ogden put it: “You always got to go into the season thinking you can win (every game).” But, realism is also an enduring trait. Corner Canyon has talent scattered intermittently, but piecing it together doesn’t occur overnight. For instance, Syracuse posted a 0-10 record in its first year in 2007. The following season, the Titans improved to 10-3 and advanced to the 5A semifinals. The Chargers are swarmed with underclassmen juggling aspects of learning a new system with learning how to play at the varsity level. Expect the program to at least be competitive, but cuts and bruises are inevitable.