Our talent level is fine, it’s just our numbers. This team is pulling together and going to realize they can do great things with smaller numbers. I think that’s a special thing. —Head coach Bob Stephens
Note: Alta finished with an overall record of 5-6 in 2013 and was fourth in Region 3 with a 2-3 record. It lost to Lone Peak 41-22 in the 5A quarterfinals.
SANDY — The Alta football team is enduring a transformation of sorts.
With the opening of a new school in the next neighborhood, the once football powerhouse that was bursting at the seams has suddenly shrunk in size.
“Corner Canyon has got a lot of good talent this year,” said head coach Bob Stephens, “and all those kids that would have been here.”
Heading into the 2014 season, the Hawks’ roster is now approximately a third of its former self — down to 62 varsity kids from typically 85 or 90. That is a level of decrease that reverberates throughout the team.
“Last year I lost two of my starting linebackers to broken legs all within the first three games,” Stephens said. “That definitely has an impact when you don’t have the kind of numbers to go in and replace them.”
But this year, Stephens is not worried. Although depth is lacking, he says the traditional Alta-level talent is still there.
“Our talent level is fine, it’s just our numbers,” he said. “This team is pulling together and going to realize they can do great things with smaller numbers. I think that’s a special thing.”
The coach and his team are focusing on what they have going in their favor: a group of experienced upperclassmen playing alongside a lot of talented up-and-coming youngsters.
“We’ve got some really good seniors — a few really good seniors — that are going to anchor this team, and then we’ve got a lot of good young players coming up through the team,” Stephens said. “We’re going to count on them quite a bit.”
One of those kids is Quinn Fabrizio, a 6-foot-3 senior who will return to the starting lineup for the third-consecutive season. The free safety had 94 tackles and an interception a year ago before suffering a knee injury in December.
“He’s going to be ready to play and cleared to go for the season,” Stephens said. “He’s going to be a great force for us, especially on the defense.”
The coach added that Fabrizio will most likely also get time on offense, a result of having a smaller team.
The Hawks will be tested early and often by their schedule, both on the field and in their route to it. After opening with a home game against Pleasant Grove, Alta hits the road for six consecutive weeks.
One of those games will be played in Seattle against Bellevue, Washington, and a region matchup with Jordan will take place at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“That’s just the way it all worked out. It wasn’t by my plan by any means,” Stephens said.
“We still have four home games, four away, and two at basically neutral sites. We don’t mind traveling on the road — that’s football.”
Following the six-week stretch of road games, the Hawks will return home for three straight matchups, including games against Copper Hills and West Jordan that are just five days apart.
Alta Hawks at a glance
Coach: Bob Stephens is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Alta, where he has accumulated a career record of 23-11. Stephens is a graduate of BYU.
(2 returning starters, Spread)
Just two kids with starting experience return to the Hawks’ offense this season.
Don Wilkinson, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound senior, and Josh Soifua, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior, are the key components who will anchor the offensive line for a squad that, after losing a couple of fantastic receivers after last season, intends to be more run-oriented. The team is also still in search of its starting quarterback.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks that are competing for the starting role right now, one’s a senior, one’s a junior,” Stephens said, adding that the Hawks' "running game should be greatly enhanced from what it’s been.”
(4 returning starters)
The former is a senior linebacker who has been starting since his sophomore season. A year ago, he broke he broke his leg in just the second game, leading to a lot of anticipation for his senior year.
Meanwhile, the latter will step back into his linebacker role as well as take on running back duties on offense.
“I anticipate a very attack-oriented defense,” Stephens said. “It’s going to come after people. We’re going to simplify it a little bit and keep it to where we play good, assignment-sound football and attack.”
Coaches’ preseason Region 3 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Fourth
With just a handful of returning starters on either side of the ball, the Hawks will be very dependent on the senior leadership they do have. Those with experience must step in and guide the underclassmen. On top of that, Alta must remain relatively healthy and strong. With fewer numbers, there are not only fewer backups but starters are also depended upon in multiple areas on the field.
Alta coaching history
2011-current — Bob Stephens (23-11)
2005-2010 — Les Hamilton (51-15)
1994-2004 — Mitch Lunak (71-42)
1978-1993 — Doug Berry (94-72)
Deseret News Mr. Football recipients
2007 — Boo Andersen, LB
2006 — Sausan Shakerin, RB
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2008 — Ammon Olsen, QB
2007 — Ryan Rosenvall, QB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Mack Richards, WR
2012 — Ammon Barker, WR
2011 — Ryan Jensen, DL
2009 — Jordan Brown, QB
2009 — Zach Liston, WR
2009 — Lundon Smith, OL
2009 — Beaver Ho-Ching, DL
2009 — Nick Wolford, LB
2009 — Vance Bingham, K
2008 — Parker Webster, WR
2008 — Parker Erickson, OL
2008 — Dan Adams, DL
2008 — A’I Ho-Ching, LB
2008 — Trey Phillips, DB
2007 — Sausan Shakerin, RB
2007 — Derek Keller, DL
2007 — Jordan Anderson, LB
2007 — Jefferson Court, LB
2007 — Parker Walbeck, Specialist
2006 — Cody Gates, OL
2006 — Jefferson Court, LB
2006 — Dallin Cutler, Specialist
2005 — Braden Hansen, OL
2005 — Jordan Herkimer, DL
2005 — Troy Bunting, LB
2004 — Dave Johnson, TE
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.