I think our biggest accomplishment could be strengthening the culture of the program. —Coach Eric Alder
Note: Ben Lomond finished with an 0-10 overall record in 2013 and was seventh in 3AA North with an 0-6 record. It did not qualify for the 3AA playoffs.
OGDEN — For the last five years, unfortunately, there's been a revolving door in the Ben Lomond football coach's office.
The Scots have changed head coaches more often than some people file their income taxes — five times in five years — and it's been just about as frustrating for the school as it is for the rest of us to meet that annual April 15 deadline with those fine folks from the IRS.
Five different head coaches in five years' time is definitely not a recipe for building a winning program, much less rebuild one that has struggled mightily over the last decade and a half. Ben Lomond hasn't had a winning season since 2000, reaching the state playoffs just one time since then, and the Scots have won just three games over the last five seasons combined.
But Eric Alder is determined to change all of that. Sure, the first-year Ben Lomond head coach knows he's not going to transform the Scots into a championship-caliber team overnight, and he realizes it will take not only some time, but a ton of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to get it done.
He knows what he's getting into, and he's eager to give it a go.
"I think our biggest accomplishment could be strengthening the culture of the program," said Alder, a former assistant coach for a pair of Cache Valley schools, Sky View and Mountain Crest. "Whether that means we win all the games or we win a few or we win most of them, if we can strengthen the culture and instill a belief system in here, I think that's the biggest success we can draw out of these kids and out of this season.
"In the months that I've been here, I've realized that there's enough talent with these kids that they could be successful. How successful, I don't know, but we can win some football games. But it's getting them to believe in the whole program and the whole system and in each other, and to have them be accountable to each other and building up the culture of the program is really what we've focused on.
"And there's really only one way to do that, and that's to start with really hard work," he said. "We've worked our butts off in the weight room and in everything that we do, and those kids that want to rise to the occasion or rise to the challenge will, and those kids that don't won't. And they won't be a part of the program."
Alder feels like, despite the Scots' struggles, there are enough talented athletes in the B.L. program that it shouldn't be finding it so darned difficult to get into the win column, at least once in a while.
"I don't believe the cupboard's bare," he said, "and I told them that at one point in the summer that I realized having been here a couple of months and watching them work out and do things that the cupboard is not bare. And there's no reason that this program shouldn't be better than what it's been — there just isn't.
"And looking at the kids that we've got, we've got to do things right, we've got to be smart, and we've got to believe. And once those things happen, I think good things could take place here at Ben Lomond. I just think all the key components need to come together.
"That's not easy. That's not going to happen overnight, nor is it going to happen because we want it to," Alder said. "We're gonna experience some challenges along the way, but it all comes down to sticking to your core beliefs of effort and doing everything you can to be your best."
To say that Ben Lomond's program has had a tough time winning over the last several years would be an understatement. With winless seasons in 2012 and 2013, the Scots' losing streak stretches back 20 straight games. Their last win came back on Oct. 13, 2011, and they've lost 26 of their last 27 games, 35 of their last 37, and 48 of their last 51.
Indeed, since grabbing their last state playoff berth in 2007, wins have been harder to come by than a politician who keeps his campaign promises.
But Alder isn't going to let himself get all caught up in that. He knows the program has been through the ringer in the past, but his focus is set squarely on the future.
"I'd say that there's only one direction we're gonna look, and that's forward," he said. "We're not gonna talk about the way things have been; we're only gonna talk about the way things are going to be and what you need to do to be a Ben Lomond football player. And if you can do this and this and live by our standards, then you can do it. And if you can't, then you can't.
"Does that mean our main focus is just numbers, numbers? As the summer has gone on, I'm less concerned with numbers and I'm more concerned with the kids that have bought in instead of just the overall numbers. If we have to weed out a few, then we weed out a few.
"It's like I told the kids, 'You're either gonna become part of the problem or part of the solution to get this program where it needs to be,'" Alder said. "And a lot of those kids have chosen to be part of the solution. Some of them are still being part of the problem, and they won't be around. And if we take the field at Union (in the season opener on Aug. 22) with 15 or 20 or 25 kids, that's what we've got. But I'm only gonna put kids out there that have bought in and are doing things the way we want 'em to."
Coach Alder has some solid athletes to begin building the program around this year, starting with senior quarterback Rigo "Nova" Vasquez, who has displayed solid leadership skills that the Scots' certainly need.
"Rigo's a smart kid," Alder said. "He's played football for a long time, played a lot of different positions, and he understands the game. He's got a lot of those intangibles; the kids like him and kinda gravitate towards him. He's kind of a jokester, and you need those on every team.
"I believe he's a good leader — a quarterback has to be that — and he's got that infectious personality. I can trust him out there on the field and say take this kid or teach that kid what he's supposed to do here. I can trust him to work with a younger group of kids and say, 'Help this kid learn the plays' and things like that."
"Mario's a taller running back and he's probably one of our fastest kids," Alder said, "although between him and Angelo that would be a good race actually. Mario's got one of the better top-end speeds in the program, and so does Angelo actually. When Angelo's out there running, there's not very many kids that can beat him."
"He's not 100 percent yet, but he said he's good to go, so he's out there doing what he can," Alder said. "But we have to be smart with him."
Anderson's size, strength and quickness will likely get him some playing time on the D-line as well.
"He's a good enough athlete he could play anywhere on the defense," Alder said.
As far as their 3AA North Region foes go, Juan Diego is again looked upon as the team to beat, and Stansbury and Bear River will also be strong playoff contenders.
But Alder likes his own team's chances to make some noise this season.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm excited about what we can do. I think there's been a real good, positive energy all summer long. I feel like a good core group of kids are bought into the program and want to go win.
"And there's obviously a lot of kids we've got to bring along and nurture and see if they can buy in or get out of the way. Because that's what it's gonna be — you're either gonna buy in and be part of the program, or you're not going to be strong enough and you're going to get out."
One good thing about the 3AA North Region is that teams only have to win a couple of games and they'll go to the state playoffs.
So, is that a possibility for Ben Lomond this year?
"Absolutely," Alder said emphatically. "No reason why we shouldn't. Absolutely."
Ben Lomond Scots at a glance
Coach: Eric Alder takes the reins of the Scots' program, becoming their fifth head coach in five years. The former Sky View High athlete has served as an assistant coach at Sky View, Mountain Crest and Morgan high schools. This is his first head coaching job.
Rigo Vasquez steps into the starting quarterback role, and he's a good athlete who has shown strong leadership ability. Mario Anderson and Angelo Rios provide a solid one-two punch at running back, and Ambrosio Ramirez, Deontay Nish, Julian Gomez and Oscar River will capably man the slot and wide receiver spots. River Phillips and Hunter Kincaid anchor an offensive line that must find a way to give the Scots a better push up front and, hopefully, help them put points on the scoreboard much more often than they did last year, when B.L. managed an average of just 10 points per game.
Jaime Castillo and Ryan Ormond will lead the D-line, with Israel Garcia and Kadence Rentmeister heading up the linebacker corps and Deontay Nish and Julian Gomez in charge of spearheading the Scots' secondary. This is where Ben Lomond must make the biggest leap forward if it is going to become a factor, as the Scots gave up an average of around 30 points per game to their league opponents last season — a number than ballooned to more than 43 ppg in all games. That trend cannot continue if B.L. is going to begin turning things around.
Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Seventh
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Seventh
Bottom line: First-year head coach Eric Alder knows that, before Ben Lomond can become a winning program again, he must try and change the culture that has fostered a losing mentality at the school for many years. The Scots haven't won a game since October 2011, have lost 20 straight games, haven't had a winning season since 2000, and have reached the state playoffs only once since then. Turning this thing around will take some time, plus a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, but Alder is determined to do it and insists that the players in his program are better than past performances might indicate.
Aug. 22 — at Union, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 — JUAB, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 — JUAN DIEGO, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 — STANSBURY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 — at Ogden, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 — at Park City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 — BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Ben Lomond High School
All-time record: 167-398-9 (61 years)
Region championships: 3 (1965, 1967 co, 1985 co)
Playoff appearances: 11
All-time playoff record: 10-11
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-3
Most played rivalry: 65 meetings with Ogden dating back to 1953. Ogden leads 46-19.
Felt’s Factoid(s): The winner of the Ben Lomond-Ogden game claims the Iron Horse — one of just seven traveling trophies currently being contested in Utah prep football. Seven of their 65 matchups have gone into overtime, the most between any two teams. ... Ben Lomond's Emmett White holds the state record for all-purpose career yards with 8,532 set from 1994-97. He also returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns during his career, another Utah prep record.
Ben Lomond coaching history
2014 — Eric Alder (0-0)
2013 — Aaron Dooley (0-10)
2012 — Bill Mierzejewski (0-9)
2011 — Don Kenyon (2-7)
2007-2010 — Jeff Kilts (6-34)
2005-2006 — Nick Howell (4-16)
2003-2004 — Art Burtenshaw (6-15)
2000-2002 — Aaron Tillett (10-22)
1997-1999 — Guy Andersen (11-18)
1995-1996 — Garry Walker (1-17)
1991-1994 — Roger Howell (9-27)
1989-1990 — Jerre Holmes (4-15)
1984-1988 — Ralph Johnson (18-33)
1983 — Holger Hansen (5-6)
1976-1982 — Brent Belnap (28-38)
1963-1975 — Al Kapp (35-74)
1953-1962 — William "Twist" Jones (28-57)
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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.