2013 high school football preview: New Lone Peak Knights coach inherits a powerful program
HIGHLAND — It’s a new season and there’s a new coach in town, but the expectations for the Lone Peak Knights remain the same.
New head coach Mike Mower inherits one of the state’s hottest programs, which is just two years removed from winning a state championship. Expectations run high at Lone Peak, as evidenced by region coaches picking the Knights to finish first in a league straw poll.
“It’s not an easy thing to take over for a great coach like Tony McGeary and try and maintain what he built and maybe even improve on it a bit,” Mower said. “Coach McGeary did so much for this program and it’s a tough responsibility to follow him up — that’s for sure. But I love the challenge and I love the opportunity.”
McGeary resigned in the offseason amid allegations of rules violations, and the reins were turned over to Mower, who had been serving as defensive coordinator at Lone Peak. Having coached under McGeary and being intimately familiar with the program obviously has been beneficial.
“You couldn’t ask for a better coach to learn from,” Mower said. “Everything I need to do to keep this program playing great football — it’s all been done before and I’ve been able to see it.”
While players miss McGeary, they’re thankful Mower is the one replacing him.
“Coach Mower is just one of the coolest guys — he was one of my favorite coaches last year because he’s always upbeat and he just loves the game of football,” said quarterback Baron Gajkowski. “I don’t think you could have a better quality in a coach. He just loves the game.”
Lone Peak will rely heavily on Gajkowski, who proved to be one of the more electrifying playmakers in the state last season. As a junior Gajkowski ran for 1,155 yards and 13 touchdowns along while throwing for 2,204 yards and 19 touchdowns.
His production and play earned him the nickname “Little Chase” in honor of Chase Hansen, who was named Mr. Football by the Deseret News in 2011.
“Baron is everything you’d want in a quarterback and I wouldn‘t trade him for anyone in the state,” said Mower. “I really can’t say enough about the kid and how he handles himself both on and off the field. He’s exactly the type of player and the type of person you want leading your team. Having players like Baron in the program — well, it’s just a huge blessing for me as a coach.”
Gajkowski will make due without many of the playmakers who starred last season, but the cupboard certainly isn’t bare. The program returns at least three starting offensive linemen from last year and some promising talent at both receiver and running back.
“You can’t replace a talent like Talon Shumway and the other guys that were here, but we have several kids who have good hands and who run good routes,” Mower said. “Baron was obviously our best runner last season, but we need to find another guy to take some of the pressure of running off him and to augment his skills.”
Lone Peak has traditionally had a prolific offense, and Mower isn’t too concerned about offensive production this season with Gajkowski at the helm. Defense, however, is an area where the team needs to get better.
“That’s really been the focus for us early on,” Mower said. “We simply need to be a better defensive team than we’ve been the last couple of years. We want a new enthusiasm on that side of the ball and we’re focused on getting fundamentally better.”