SPANISH FORK — After suffering through a brutal 0-9 inaugural season in 2009, Maple Mountain coach Brad Burtenshaw has quietly built a solid program.
In every year since that winless campaign, the program has made the playoffs, only to be bounced in the first round. Last season Maple Mountain seemed poised to advance in the postseason after posting a 9-1 regular-season record and winning Region 8, but it fell to Box Elder 20-0 in the first round.
Accordingly, winning once they get to the playoffs is the main goal in front of the Golden Eagles heading into the 2013 season.
“That’s the big thing for us, obviously,” Burtenshaw said. “I think that’s the natural step for any new program after they’ve managed to make the playoffs. We’ve lost in the first round three years straight now and we need get past that and be competitive in the postseason.”
First things first, however, as Maple Mountain will have to contend against a newly formed Region 8 to advance again to the postseason.
Defending 4A state champion Timpview stayed in the league, along with a hungry Springville team, Provo and Salem Hills. And the region welcomes what looks to be rising programs in both Spanish Fork and Wasatch.
“It’s a tough region and you really can’t look past anyone,” Burtenshaw said. “There are a lot of great rivalries and we think we’ll have another good rivalry now with Spanish Fork, and maybe even with Wasatch.”
To play well enough in region to again qualify for the postseason the Golden Eagles will have to adequately replace both KJ Hall and CJ Hildebrand. Hall starred at quarterback while Hildebrand was the team’s defensive leader and leading running back.
“It’s just what you have to go through every year as a coach,” Burtenshaw said. “Sure, those are tough losses for us, but you move on, find guys to step up, and hopefully things work out.”
“Jaren has a lot of the same abilities that KJ had and he’s had some good experience,” Burtenshaw said. “He runs around real well, and he even started a few games for us last year. I like our linebackers and defensive backs. Our skill position players look good, but we need to replace a lot of linemen on defense, and on offense.”
Should players step up on both sides of the line, Burtenshaw likes his team’s potential.
“I think we’ve built a good winning tradition here and kids want to continue that,” he said. “Sure, there’s a lot of guys to replace, but you just move on and realize it’s a new year. Kids leave, but other kids step up and I think we have a lot of guys ready to meet the call. I’m excited for the season.”
Maple Mountain Golden Eagles at a glance
Coach: Brad Burtenshaw enters his fifth season as head coach. He's compiled a 19-22 overall record. He's a graduate of San Juan High School.
(Spread; 5 returning starters)
Maple Mountain runs an exciting brand of offense that relies heavily on the talents of its quarterback and skill-position players. Burtenshaw expects Jaren Hall to step in right where his predecessor left off at quarterback. The Eagles return a lot of talent at both receiver and running back.
"We have Cole Casper back at running back and guys like Jake Mafi and Connor Ellis at receiver, so I like our potential there," Burtenshaw said. "We just need to get Jaren (Hall) in good spots so that he can make plays and our skill guys can do the things they did so well last year."
(4-3; 4 returning starters)
Burtenshaw runs a traditional system and employs relatively simple schemes to allow his players to play fast and aggressive. The strength of the defense should be in the defensive backfield, which could serve well in pass-happy Region 8.
"It seems as if everyone throws the ball and throws it a lot now in our region," Burtenshaw said. "Fortunately we have some good guys there. Jake Mafi will play both ways and I really like Nick Shaw — he's a good leader for us."
Coaches preseason Region 4 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News preseason Region 4 prediction: Third
Bottom line: It's never good to go into a season with a largely inexperienced offensive and defensive line, but that's what Maple Mountain has in 2013. Should the lines suffice the Golden Eagles have enough firepower to finish at or near the top of Region 8 and again qualify for the playoffs.
Maple Mountain coaching history
2009-current — Brad Burtenshaw (19-24)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.