I think we have the potential to be really good. It’s a matter of putting it together, coming together as one, as a team ... and believing in each other. We have a lot of good individuals, and if we play together, we have the potential to make a run at the region championship. —Box Elder quarterback Connor Udy
Note: Box Elder finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2013 and was third in Region 5 with a 4-2 record. It lost to Woods Cross 42-14 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
While many football teams are trying to spread out and speed up their offenses, the Box Elder Bees will do the opposite.
“It gives our 11 a chance, with all of them working together,” Box Elder coach Robbie Gunter said of his wing-T offense. “We feel it makes it difficult on defenses. In our region, these guys snap the ball so fast, and we want to slow it down, let that clock run, and try to put them in a bind by keeping them on the sidelines.”
The Bees finished third in the Region 5 race last year, and while they lost a lot of experience with graduation, Gunter said they retained some critical leaders.
“Connor Udy is going to be our quarterback, and he’s done a great job of stepping up and being a leader,” Gunter said. “Riley Burt (running back) is a great player and great athlete and he’s doing a really great job of working with the younger guys and just being a really good example.”
Burt rushed for 511 yards on 83 carries, and his workload will likely increase this season. Udy said he can’t wait to watch his teammate tear up defenses this fall.
“Riley Burt, he’s committed to BYU, and the kid is fast,” Udy said. “He’s so fast and just electrifying. Every time he gets the ball he can break away. I’m just excited to see how he embraces the commitment. He puts on his pads and plays hard.”
Udy said that he’s looking forward to the responsibility of leading this year’s team after being the starting safety last year and backup quarterback.
“Coach has really surrounded me with a lot of great players and put me in a position to be successful,” he said. “I love it. It’s definitely a stronger role and I do much more in the offense, but I love setting the team up. I really love the opportunity to be a leader and help the team.”
Gunter and his players feel confident about the upcoming season, despite losing most of last year’s starting lineup.
“I think we have the potential to be really good,” said Udy. “It’s a matter of putting it together, coming together as one, as a team ... and believing in each other. We have a lot of good individuals, and if we play together, we have the potential to make a run at the region championship.”
The Bees struggled with injuries last year, but that will actually help this year’s squad.
“We had kind of a senior-laden group last year, but we did get our younger guys some time because we had some injuries,” Gunter said. “The younger guys helped out, got some reps. And they’re a very competitive group.”
Gunter said this year’s team will have the same goals they have every year — to win.
“We play football to win,” he said. “Our goal is to win the region championship. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re doing the work.”
Like Udy, Gunter sees the key to the team’s success in its cohesiveness.
“We’re starting to come together,” he said. “We are really about putting the team first, really working together. Other teams have phenomenal athletes, but we just focus on trying to make our 11 better than (our opponents') 11.”
Box Elder Bees at a glance
Coach: In his sixth year as the head coach of the Box Elder Bees, Robbie Gunter owns a 27-27 record. The native of Idaho and SUU graduate has a 63-56 record in 12 years as a head coach.
(4 returning starters; Wing-T offense)
Senior Connor Udy will lead the Bees' offense at quarterback, but he’ll have one of the best running backs in the classification in senior Riley Burt. Senior Zak Kaleikini will anchor the offensive line, providing Box Elder much-needed experience. Junior tight end Darius McFarland is a physical, athletic player that will give the Bees the ability to be creative.
(2 returning starters)
The team’s defense is the biggest question mark. With just two returning starters, the young players have a lot to learn and a lot to prove.
“We have some good players and they’re working hard,” Gunter said.
Only Burt, who will play defensive back, and McFarland, who will play defensive end, return to the Bees’ defense.
Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 5 prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: If the Box Elder defense can match the quality of its offense, the Bees will be competitive in the Region 5 race. Udy and Burt are talented, but they’ll need some of the younger players to step up to the challenge if the Bees want to be competitive. The good news is that most teams in the region — except Roy — are relying on inexperienced players this season.
The program’s approach and tradition is tough-minded, smash-mouth football, and this year’s team will epitomize that.
Box Elder coaching history
2009-current — Robbie Gunter (27-27)
1991-2008 — Wes Roesler (128-71)
1988-1990 — Larry Findley (18-10)
1981-1987 — Michale Madeo (39-29)
1979-1980 — Larry Findley (10-10)
1974-1978 — Gordon Peterson (21-25)
1960-1973 — Les Dunn (80-55)
1921-1959 — Earl Ferguson (213-78)
1917-1920 — Alvin Twitchell (7-7)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Luke Daley, OL
2013 — Breckin Gunter, LB
2012 — Breckin Gunter, LB
2011 — Britton Gunter, DB
2006 — Riggin Holmgren, OL
2006 — Curtis Cosgrove, DL
2006 — Broc Lindauer, LB
2006 — Alex Nelson, DB
2004 — Nate Brown, DL
2004 — Jordan Brown, DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.