2013 high school football preview: Granger Lancers hungry to exceed expectations

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 9:15 a.m. MDT

Davion Jones, junior tight end/defensive end.

Amy Donaldson

WEST VALLEY CITY — Kenyon Frison believes the Granger football program — regardless of its record — has always had talented athletes.

But now they have to prove they can compete mentally.

“Everybody thinks we’re not going to pull through, but we are,” said the senior offensive lineman who committed to Utah last year. “We’re going to play high-tempo football and we’re going to show other schools we’re no joke.”

Added tight end Davion Jones, “We have all of the talent in the world. We just need the right mindset. It’s definitely within ourselves.”

Losing in the first round of the 5A postseason made the Lancers hungrier to prove they’re capable of more than just making the playoffs. Both coaches and players said the team has been even more committed in the offseason and expectations are higher than they’ve been in a decade.

It doesn’t bother them that outsiders may not see what they do.

“They still underestimate us,” said Kiti Houma, a senior linebacker. “They think we’re still the team that slacks off and is undisciplined. But this is a changed program, a good program.” Lancer head coach Cecil Thomas said he pushed the players to expect more of themselves — starting with how they run the team’s offense.

“We’re going to run multiple formations, no huddle, up-tempo offense,” he said. Thomas introduced the players to it last year, and they’ve worked on it in the offseason. He believes keeping it simple and that enough practice will ensure the players can operate without breaks.

“I just like it,” he said of why he made the change in his second year as head coach at Granger High. “I like to play fast. That’s what I did in the past, and if you can execute it right, you put the defense in a bind. And that’s what I really like about it.”

He said the most difficult aspect of moving to a no-huddle offense is making the players comfortable with speed.

“The hardest thing to get out of them is to learn to play fast all the time,” Thomas said. “That’s going to be the work in progress.”

Thomas said the players have “bought into” everything he and the other coaches have asked of them.

“They have a lot of pride in what they’re doing,” he said. “This is one of the best groups of kids I’ve ever been around as far as athletically, personality-wise and character-wise. They’ve really responded to everything we’ve asked of them on the field and in the classroom.” He said several seniors have emerged as leaders, including lineman Marshal Auva’a.

“He’s a big-time leader,” said Thomas. “He’s an every-down player, a hard-nosed kid.”

Having players who exemplify what he teaches makes those lessons much easier to learn.

“Everything has changed,” said Kylon Pierre, a senior tailback and linebacker. “The coaches, the players, the whole community has changed. We’ve always had the talent. We just needed the right direction.”

While his teammates believe it’s the Lancers’ line play that opponents will remember the next day, Pierre said it will be their effort.

“We’re fast, and we’re going to fly around,” he said. “This is probably the fastest team anyone plays this year.”

Auva’a said the offensive line is big, fast and tough. “We can run more every day,” he said. “We get stronger and faster every day.” Senior quarterback Zack Ashman said expectations are about as high as they get for a team.