Note:Corner Canyon finished with a 6-6 overall record in 2013 and tied for first in Region 7 with a 5-1 record. It lost to East in the 4A quarterfinals.
DRAPER — Despite being in existence for only one year, members of the Corner Canyon football team look like they have been playing together for their entire lives.
Last season, the Chargers got off to a bumpy start in the first three weeks, dropping all three contests by a combined 12 points. Then something clicked.
The dynamic duo of childhood best friends Riley Ogden (RB) and Michael Ebeling (QB) suddenly emerged and became unstoppable.
“Oh yeah, we’ve always had this great chemistry,” Ogden said of his childhood friend and teammate. “Mike and I grew up together playing catch all throughout little league up until sophomore year, junior year and senior year. The chemistry building has just really helped and that’s probably what I would have to attribute it to.”
Ogden ran the ball a team-high 127 times for 567 yards and eight TDs in 2013. He also hooked up with his long-time pal Ebeling in the back of the end zone four more times and totaled 108 receiving yards on 15 receptions.
Meanwhile, Ebeling’s dual-threat quarterback style really opened things on the offensive end. In 2013, Ebeling completed 73 of 128 passing attempts for 922 yards, 16 TDs and only five interceptions.
Ebeling hasn’t stopped working out in the offseason and has really fine-tuned his game in a major way, especially in his throwing technique.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year for Mike is going to be the one year of varsity experience he has under his belt,” Corner Canyon coach Don Eck said of his star QB. “Plus, I now have a quarterback coach who is doing a great job teaching him how to read coverages and get rid of the ball in time, so you’re going to see a big, huge difference in Mike. It’s going to be the same Mike, but our throwing game is going to be a lot better.”
After struggling early in the season, the Chargers went on a roll to end their first season, chalking up four straight victories and winning six of their last nine contests to make the playoffs in their first season of competition. Corner Canyon’s Cinderella ride eventually came to a screeching halt in a 49-point blowout loss against powerhouse East in the 4A quarterfinals.
After getting their first taste of competitive playoff football last year, the Chargers are far from fulfilled and already have their sights set on winning their first state title in school history.
“We are a lot more ready this year than we were last year. Our team has gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger and a lot better, so we are definitely ready for this season,” Ebeling said. “We’re trying to contend for a state championship. That is definitely our No. 1 goal, and we’re going to be ready.”
With 20 of 22 starters returning this season, the Chargers have tremendous experience on both sides of the field.
Alongside Ogden and Ebeling, Corner Canyon has several top returning contributors who will make immediate impacts on the field. Some of the top players returning include senior stars Brandon Bowen (OT/DT), Sam Dalsasso (OG/OT), Hunter Vranes (LB), Gaige Kartchner (LB/FB), Garrett Micheali (WR), Izaac Brinton (TE/LB), Jake Cahoon (WR), Matt Scheffner (S), and junior Keaton Bills (OT/DE).
“We have 51 seniors on this team with an extremely talented sophomore class coming up,” Eck said. “We have a total of 20 returning starters — 10 of offense and 10 on defense — and two of our best seniors are also returning from knee injuries (Sam Dalsasso, Hunter Vranes) at 100 percent. So it should be a fun year for us.”
With such a dynamic and athletic roster having so much experience under their belts, Eck and the Chargers have to feel pretty comfortable and confident heading into their second season of 4A football.
“We feel pretty good, you know, especially having the experience that we have with 20 of 22 returning starters,” Eck said with a smile. “Also, we’re getting seniors Dalsasso (DE) and Vranes (LB) both back from knee injuries, and those two were both starters prior to getting hurt in camp. So we feel really good; they’re working extremely hard.
“If we don’t screw it up as coaches, it should be a pretty good year.”
Corner Canyon’s multiple-set offense fits perfectly with its capability to both throw and run the ball at any given time. With the ability to stretch the defense with five-wide or lining up in various pro-set formations, a lot of holes begin to open up and it gives the Chargers’ quick and athletic receivers a huge advantage downfield. The scheme works perfectly for a run-first team like the Chargers, and even more specifically for Riley Ogden, a tremendously quick and athletic transfer from Alta High. He will obviously be the No. 1 running back and carry the bulk of the load. Senior Tyson Rogers is expected to get plenty of reps out of the backfield as well.
“(Ogden's) leadership is big for us. We’re hoping to get him 1,000 yards this year,” Eck said of his first-string back. “Our backup to him right now who is also going to get reps is Tyson, so both of those guys are going to get some halfback play. Riley might even play some defense for us this year at safety, but I love the kid and he’s going to carry the load for us on offense when we’re running the ball.”
The Chargers’ defense isn’t nearly as explosive or dangerous as their offense, but with 10 starters returning on the defensive end, it could drastically improve from its varsity experience. Corner Canyon isn’t known for one defensive formation specifically, but it tends to rotate typical four- and three-down fronts. Seniors Gaige Kartchner and Sam Dalsasso are going to be the anchors of the Chargers’ defense this season.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: First
Bottom line: With 20 of its 22 starters returning and with its high-octane offense, Corner Canyon is becoming a significant threat in a very competitive Region 7. It is obvious that the Chargers are littered with returning talent and are only going up from here, but piecing together a championship-caliber football program doesn’t occur overnight. After a year of nothing but good-old fashioned hard work and buying into a new system, expect the program to be a little more polished, a little more hungry, and competing for another region and state title at the end of the year.
Felt’s Facts for Corner Canyon High School
All-time record: 6-6 (1 year)
Region championships: 1 (2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 1
All-time playoff record: 1-1
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Felt’s Factoid(s): Corner Canyon is one of two schools to win a playoff game the year it opened.
Murray coaching history
2013-current — Don Eck (6-6)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
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To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724