Ben Brewer, Deseret News
BLANDING — Some programs rebuild. Some programs reload.
Down in Blanding, there hasn’t been a rebuilding year in more than a decade.
With three state titles in the past eight years — not to mention two runner-up finishes during that same stretch — year after year San Juan reloads to make a run at a 2A state championship.
In the watered-down 2A classification — because of the departure of Manti, Richfield and Emery to 3A — don’t expect that to change, even though on paper San Juan might be a bit more vulnerable than it has been in recent memory.
San Juan will be young and inexperienced with only three returning starters from last year’s runner-up team, and only seven total seniors as well.
Veteran coach Monty Lee doesn’t see the inexperience as a problem, though. In fact, quite the contrary.
“They’re wanting their turn. They’ve waited for a chance to show what they can do. It’s kind of fun to coach these kids who are really excited, and who really wanted to work,” said Lee.
This year’s team also isn’t as athletic as past San Juan teams, but not surprisingly that doesn’t concern Lee either.
“A lot of times athleticism is a disadvantage because you don’t have to work as hard to get the same result,” said Lee. “The kids have to work a little harder to get out what they got.”
With more uncertainty than in recent years, Lee is the first to admit it’s going to take awhile for San Juan to settle in. Will it be a dominant defensive team like the past several years, or will the offense carry the load in 2013? Lee said it might take half a season for that identity to emerge.
Some of those questions will be answered in the opening week of the season, when San Juan travels to Snow Canyon. Last season the Broncos beat Snow Canyon 19-11 in the season opener, the first of 11 straight victories for the Broncos. They didn’t taste defeat until Manti booted a 50-yard field in overtime of the 2A championship game last November.
Lee said he doesn’t talk about that loss much with his players.
“I think each year we downplay the year before. We try to emphasize and help these kids realize that this is their year. They get to create their own identity. This is their year and their team,” said Lee.
If there’s one area that isn’t a concern for San Juan, it’s on the offensive line. Chase Richmond, Ben Brewer and Braydon Giddings are all returning starters, a solid foundation any coach would be happy with.
“You don’t win big games without good lineman and we’re real fortunate that we have three returners, and a fourth that’s played a lot. We’re really good across the front line,” said Lee.
That fourth is Lee’s nephew, Easton Lee.
The quartet will be blocking for senior QB Terrance Tate, who has big shoes to fill in replacing Barkley Christensen. The departed Christensen accounted for 2,587 yards of total offense and 33 touchdowns last season, but Coach Lee doesn’t expect Tate to replace that production on his own.
Jens Grover, Max Morley and Bronze Eldredge are all talented skill-position players who will need to step up offensively if San Juan is going to challenge South Summit and Millard for the state title.
San Juan Broncos at a glance
Coach: Monty Lee is entering his 11th season as San Juan’s head coach. He’s amassed a 96-19 record along the way, including state titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010. He’s a graduate of San Juan High School.
(3 returning starters; rollout-option offense)
Terrence Tate takes over at QB this year, and coach Lee said he’s a smart, unselfish player who really loves to compete. The heart of the offense may ultimately be Bronze Eldredge. Just a sophomore, the running back is already starting to draw attention from college coaches both for his ability offensively and defensively. He’ll be running behind an experienced offensive line that includes three returning starters. Jens Grover is a solid fullback for the Broncos, while junior Max Morley is a running back the team will look to get out in space and take advantage of his outstanding speed.
(3 returning starters)
San Juan only allowed 6 ppg last season, and strong defensive line play was a big reason why. That could again be the strength of the defense this season as Chase Richmond, Ben Brewer and Braydon Giddings are all returning contributors. The leader of the defense may ultimately be Grover, according to Lee. He’s not a real boisterous guy on the field, but rather lets his strong play do the talking. Eldredge was third on the team in tackles with 66 last season, and even bigger things are expected this season.
Coaches preseason 2A South straw poll: First
Deseret News 2A South prediction: First
Bottom line: Even though San Juan is young and doesn’t have a ton of seniors on the squad, expectations both internally and externally haven’t changed. A state title is still the goal, and the Broncos are one of three or four teams in 2A realistically capable of winning it — especially with Manti out of the equation this year.
San Juan coaching history
2003-current — Monty Lee (96-19)
1987-2002 — Art Burtenshaw (133-49)
1983-1986 — Morris Swenson (23-15)
1974-1982 — George Bayles (46-47)
1972-1973 — Murray Kula (5-11)
1969-1971 — Mike Blair (12-19)
1968 — Dennis Udy (6-4)
1957-1967 — Morris Swenson (54-43)
1956 — Neldon Cochran (2-2)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2010 — Stetler Shumway, RB/LB
2009 — Jace Holliday, RB/DE
2006 — Tranner Sharpe, OL/DL
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Barkley Christensen, QB/DB
2012 — Logan Meyer, RB/LB
2012 — Bobby Bowring, WR/DB
2012 — Bogh Bayles, OL/DE
2011 — Barkley Christensen, QB/DB
2011 — Logan Meyer, RB/LB
2011 — Bogh Bayles, OL/DL
2011 — Landon Palmer, OL/DL
2010 — Colby Redd RB
2010 — Taj Eldredge OL/LB
2010 — Cameron Shumway QB
2010 — AJ Slavens OL/DL
2010 — Tyler Nielson WR/DB
2009 — Peyton Black, FB/LB
2009 — Stetler Shumway, RB, DL
2009 — AJ Slavens, OL/DL
2009 — Jimmy Tate, WR/LB
2009 — Benny Royer, DB
2008 — Kohler Black, RB/LB
2008 — Nathan Einerson, WR/DB
2008 — Jace Holliday, RB/DL
2008 — Terron Jack, WR/DB
2007 — Matt Jeppson, LB/OL
2007 — Scott Jeppson, DL/OL
2007 — Scott Jeppson, DL/OL
2007 — Dane Lyman, QB/DL
2006 — Marley Haws, RB/DE
2006 — Scott Jeppson, OL/DL
2006 — Brian Kirk, RB/LB
2006 — Bradley Royer, WR/DB
2005 — Jens Wilson, RB/DB
2005 — Rye Adams, OL/DL
2005 — Keith Sullenberger, RB/LB
2005 — Noah Imel, OL/LB
2004 — Josh Shumway, LB
2003 — Chavis Holliday, RB
2003 — Kevin Kirk, LB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps
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