2013 high school football preview: Duchesne Eagles have sights set on yet another state title

By Ryan Love

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 9 2013 12:40 a.m. MDT

Utah High School 1A Football championship game between Duchesne and Rich in Pleasant Grove, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Note: Duchesne finished with a 12-0 overall record in 2012 and was first in 1A North with a 4-0 record. It beat Rich 28-0 to win the 1A championship.

DUCHESNE — The Duchesne Eagles are rich in success, coming off back-to-back-to-back 1A state championships, and their sights are set on four-peating in 2013.

The Eagles have only three returning starters — three on offense and three on defense — but veteran head coach Jerry Cowan isn't letting that hinder his team's hopes of capturing another state title.

"Our expectations are to win a state championship. We've always been pretty good in the offseason preparation-wise. We've always had a pretty good turnout in the weight room. And as far as goals go, we are always going to have the goal of winning a state championship, and it's no different this year," Cowan said.

Duchesne will need to replace six of its top contributors from the past three seasons on the offensive line and seven on the defensive line, leaving plenty of holes on both sides of the ball for younger players to step up.

The dominant defenders the Eagles will need to replace this season managed to combine for 248 tackles, 19 sacks and four interceptions in 2012. High-caliber players Wade Shephard (64 tackles, nine sacks), Ty Summarell (52 tackles, two sacks), and Christian Mahan (50 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, four interceptions) will be extremely difficult to replace on defense.

When it comes to replacing players, Duchesne's O-line is a similar story.

"Our biggest thing with us is we're just inexperienced, so we're kind of missing our offensive line. We've got no returners — all of our starters graduated last year — so we're going to hopefully grow up quick up front. That'll be our biggest preparation," said Cowan. "We'll spend some extra time with the offensive line and hopefully get them ready to go."

However, replacing linemen isn't going to be the only struggle for Duchesne this season, as it also lost its top two running backs and leading receiver.

Kaden Moon got most of the touches in the backfield last season, carrying the ball 136 times for 1,021 yards with nine TDs, while the Eagles also lost Josh Hanberg (RB/DB), who contributed 402 yards and five TDs of his own.

Being able to come up with similar production out of the backfield again this season will be one of the tougher tasks the Eagles will have on their plates. Along with trying to fill the holes in its backfield, finding a replacement for McKade Nielsen, who caught 27 passes for 616 yards and 10 TDs to lead Duchesne as a tight end last season, will also prove to be quite the difficult task.

Trent Roberts will be one of the guys Cowan counts on to fill those offensive holes in his second season as the starting quarterback. Roberts threw for 1,116 yards and an impressive 16 TDs while also managing to take care of the football, committing just two interceptions in all of last season. Roberts was also tremendous in the open field, carrying the ball 110 times for 489 yards and 12 TDs.

"He (Roberts) will be one of our biggest threats. He is a big kid. He's one of the biggest kids on our team. He's our quarterback, so we expect a lot from him, on offense and defense, and as just being a leader overall," said Cowan.

The Eagles also expect big things from senior running back/cornerback Matt Muir, who rushed for 564 yards and four TDs on 64 carries last season.