I think this has been by far the best attendance and work group I’ve had as far as wanting to be here and wanting to put in the time, especially grinding in the weight room and doing the things you have to do there to get yourself in a position to be there at the end. —Jordan football coach Eric Kjar
Note: Jordan finished with a 7-6 overall record in 2013 and was third in Region 3 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Brighton 44-20 in the 5A semifinals.
SANDY — Jordan football coach Eric Kjar has laid out steps for his team to follow during the 2014 season.
One step takes place in the weight room, another takes place at film sessions, and yet another takes place on the practice field.
They are steps along a path common to all Beetdigger football squads, which led to a state championship victory as recently as two seasons ago.
Kjar and his team are looking to retrace those steps.
“The biggest thing,” the coach said, “is just taking the steps like you have to every year. Every day they’ve got to come in and work hard in the weight room when we do our in-season lifting; they’ve got to work hard in practice and just improve. They can’t let practices or film sessions or lifting sessions slip by without trying to get better.”
By doing so, Kjar added, the team sets itself up for long-term success.
“Our teams that have done that in the past have done well,” he said. “If this group wants to do well, they’ve got to make sure they do that every time and not miss steps, because that’s how you get better. If they do that in practice, it’ll happen in games.”
That path and the expectations that come with following the process have been refined through successful seasons at Jordan. With approximately two weeks remaining until their first game, Kjar is pleased with all the work the Beetdiggers have done in the current offseason in all facets of the game.
“The amount of work they’ve put in,” he said when asked what's unique about this year’s team. “I think this has been by far the best attendance and work group I’ve had as far as wanting to be here and wanting to put in the time, especially grinding in the weight room and doing the things you have to do there to get yourself in a position to be there at the end.”
Much of what Jordan does throughout the season will be in preparation to perform in front of opposing crowds. The Sandy-based team opens its schedule with four road games, including a trip to Colorado. The Beetdiggers host Herriman in their first home game in the middle of September and then board the bus again for three more away games, including one at Rio Tinto Stadium, before playing the final two contests on their own turf.
A major cog in the Beetdiggers’ push forward is once again quarterback Austin Kafentzis. The Wisconsin-bound senior has already led Jordan to two 5A semifinal finishes and a 5A state championship his sophomore season. He has thrown 74 touchdowns and accumulated more than 9,000 passing yards, numbers that are eighth and second all time in state history, respectively.
“He works hard in practice and competes every day in practice, which I think is a big deal,” Kjar said of Kafentzis. “He’s more polished as far as understanding the game and reads and coverage and knowing what we want to do offensively. A lot of the kids look up to him because he’s done a lot over his career. I think he brings a lot of confidence to our team.”
Six additional returning starters — four of whom are on the offensive line — will surround Kafentzis, and five returning players will power the defense. It is a group that has high expectations for itself with goals Kjar is confident the team can reach.
“We definitely want to win a state championship and be there at the end,” he said. “I think this team has the ability to do that as long as they work hard every day in practice and do the things they need to do to get better. They’ve got to follow the steps.”
Jordan Beetdiggers at a glance
Coach: Eric Kjar is entering his sixth year as the head coach at Jordan, where he has accumulated a career record of 45-19. Kjar is a graduate of Wayne State.
(7 returning starters; Spread offense)
For Kjar and senior quarterback Austin Kajentzis, there is comfort in the fact that “we almost get to pick up where we left off at the end of last year,” the coach said.
Not only do the Beetdiggers retain Kafentzis, who is already second all time in state history in passing yards with 9,024, they also return center Parker Williams, guard Ben Strobel, and two more returning linemen.
“The line play is so important. Anytime we have a lot of our starters there that helps a lot,” Kjar said.
Returning receivers A.J. Townsend, who had 400 yards on 26 catches a year ago, and Spencer Curtis, who had 147 yards on 10 catches, add to the Beetdiggers’ continuity.
(5 returning starters)
A year ago, Jordan allowed 34 points per game for the entire season, the most of any Region 3 team. That number decreased to 27.6 in league play, but it is an area the Beetdiggers are looking to improve upon with experience returning.
Senior Soloman Matemate returns to the defensive line, while two-time first-team all-state selection Cooper Clark returns as a safety and linebacker. Cornerback Taylor Johnson will become a three-year returning starter this season and free safety Danial Loau, a sophomore, will return to his starting position.
“He has good cover skills, physical, will do a really good job for us being able to match up with teams’ best receivers,” Kjar said said of Johnson.
Of Loau he added, “He’s a lot different now as far as experience goes and confidence. It’s been night and day for him. Excited to have him back too.”
Coaches Preseason Region 3 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Third
Bottom line: With a roster 120 names long and loaded with returning starters as well as an offense directed by the stellar Kaftenzis, Kjar believes his team has the pieces and the depth it takes to compete in Region 3 and 5A. The key will be putting the work in on the field, in the weight room, and in film sessions to be prepared to attain those lofty goals. Add to that improved play on defense, as the Beetdiggers have been charged with stopping, or at least slowing, some very talented offenses.
Jordan coaching history
2009-current — Eric Kjar (45-19)
2003-2008 — Alex Jacobson (35-32)
1989-2002 — Jim Birch (80-64)
1986-1988 — Al Watrin (22-11)
1980-1985 — Rick Bojak (46-23)
1978-1979 — Bob Andrus (4-13)
1973-1977 — Doug Berry (16-31)
1972 — Tom Keller (1-8)
1971 — Ray Odette (3-7)
1969-1970 — Randy Autentico (2-13-3)
1967-1968 — Dean Stringham (5-13)
1966 — Bob Sanchez (1-8)
1965 — Tom Louazt (3-6)
1962-1964 — Evert Jones (14-11-1)
1961 — Glen Jackson (9-1)
1954-1960 — Howard Linford (19-35)
1950-1953 — Dale Sorensen (21-13-3)
1935-1949 — Dunn Taylor (106-29-7)
1931-1934 — Eddie Kimball (31-5-2)
1928-1930 — E.G. Foxley (9-10-1)
1920-1927 — O.D. Ballard (22-27-6)
1919 — Spike Gardner (5-2)
1918 — Parker Pratt (0-0)
1914-1917 — "Blondy" Hamilton (10-12-1)
1913 — unknown (2-4)
1909-1912 — O.G. Dutton (7-12-1)
Deseret News Mr. Football recipients
2012 — Austin Kafentzis, QB
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2012 — B.J. Cavender, OL
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Austin Kafentzis, QB
2013 — Mason Krueger, WR
2013 — Cooper Clark, DB
2012 — Clay Moss, RB
2012 — Zach Larsen, OL
2012 — Tyshon Mosley, OL
2012 — Tyler Swan, LB
2012 — Cooper Clark, DB
2011 — Austin Kafentzis, QB
2011 — B.J. Cavendar, OL
2011 — Hayden Babka, LB
2010 — McCoy Hill, QB
2010 — Taylor Loomis, WR
2009 — Alex Hart, QB
2009 — Braden Hammond, WR
2008 — Alex Hart, QB
2008 — Vyncent Jones, OL
2007 — Cody Raymond, RB
2007 — Vyncent Jones, OL
2006 — Sean Taylor, QB
2006 — Cody Ramond, WR
2005 — Cody Raymond, WR
2005 — Cody Larsen, DL
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.