Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of year, but fall camp is definitely the most hopeful moment in a football season.
Sure, there may be residual pressure or pain from the previous season. But the optimism that abounds in every locker room is unmatched in the weeks leading up to that first kickoff.
The goals may vary slightly from team to team, but whether a team returns most of last year’s starters, as Roy does, or whether most of the line-up is new to the varsity squad, as Box Elder’s is, the expectations to compete are the same.
It is both the challenge and the beauty of high school football.
“The expectation for every team is always to win the region,” said Logan head coach Mike Favero of his mostly new line-up. “I’m sure every team feels that way. The beauty of high school is that there is turnover. You have different puzzle pieces every year, and each year’s team is trying to put that puzzle together.”
The Region 5 race will be tough this year as the teams that have traditionally struggled are improved and will compete with those teams with traditions of success.
Which may be why Box Elder head coach Robbie Gunter isn’t offended that his team was selected both by coaches and the Deseret News staff to finish fourth.
“That’s at least getting into the playoffs if that comes true,” he said. “Our region is loaded this year. The Cache Valley schools are always good, Roy, man, do they have a team, and Bonneville is going to be a heck of a team. There are a couple of good teams in our region who will be staying.”
The depth doesn’t mean Gunter is tempering his expectations — regardless of what preseason polls may predict.
“We play football to win,” he said. “Our goal is to win the region championship. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to do the work. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position to be successful.”
Gunter can take heart in knowing that last year’s region champion, Logan, was picked fourth in the 2013 preseason polls. The Grizzlies went on to have an undefeated region season, losing in the quarterfinals to Olympus.
While he only returns nine of last year’s starters, he expects the Grizzlies to compete for top honors this fall.
“The expectation for every team is always to win the region,” Favero said. “I’m sure every coach feels that way.” He isn’t flattered or bothered by preseason hype.
“As coaches, we know those preseason polls carry zero weight,” Favero said. “They’re really just a compliment.” The key is convincing their teenage players not to believe the hype or not to be discouraged by the lack of respect. Every coach sees the Grizzlies and the Royals as the region’s top dogs.
“I think Logan and Roy, those are the teams to beat,” said Mountain Crest head coach Mark Wooten. “They’ve got some really good players, really good skill kids. Those are the teams you’ll have to play very well against to be (successful).”
Roy head coach Fred Fernandes has been rebuilding the program at his alma mater for the last four years. This season promises to be an exciting one as he returns 15 of last year’s starting line-up.
“This is gonna be that once-in-every-20-years year for Roy,” he said.
But even he acknowledges the talent in Region 5 mean nothing is guaranteed.