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High school football: Skyline Eagles 2014 preview

Published: Sunday, Aug. 17 2014 11:30 p.m. MDT

Note: Skyline finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2013 and was fifth in Region 7 with a 2-4 record. It failed to quality for the 4A Playoffs.

EAST MILLCREEK — For the first time in 30 years, the Skyline High football team failed to quality for the playoffs in 2013, resulting in the hiring of a new head coach, Justin Thompson, in an attempt to keep the winning tradition of Skyline football alive.

“We’re in a unique situation this year where our senior class is the biggest of the three classes. This senior class has really stayed together and been together for a long time,” Thompson said. “I’m just really excited about the intensity this team brings to things. They played a lot last year, they didn’t have the success that we are used to, and they’ve really got a chip on their shoulder about that. They feel like they have a lot to prove. They feel a lot of responsibility to make sure the tradition of Skyline football is lived up to. And they’ve done everything they can to make sure that happens.”

During their 30-year playoff streak, the Eagles managed to capture a total of eight state championships to put Skyline on the map as one of Utah’s premier football programs.

Fast-forward 30 years, and Thompson is trying to get the Eagles to buy in to his system in an effort to get them back to the level of success that they enjoyed for many years.

“Missing the playoffs last year is something that is unacceptable. Obviously, that is a major priority,” Thompson said. “The biggest things I’ve tried to emphasize is the goal has to be unity, brotherhood and to have a really, tight-knit group. The goal has got to be to improve the way that we prepare every day and in the offseason. It really just starts as improving as individuals and it’s a process.”

Since missing the playoffs last year, the Eagles didn’t just bury their heads in the sand. Rather, they came together and began training almost immediately after their season came to an end.

Since December, the Skyline football players have fully invested in the program and pushed each other to their limits to ensure this whole “missing-the-playoffs” thing was just a fluke and will never happen again.

As a first-year head coach at Skyline High, Thompson was blown away by his team’s offseason dedication and pursuit for greatness, and it has only grown since Thompson joined the Eagles this season.

“I can honestly say this is one of the best offseasons I’ve ever been a part of,” Thompson said of his team’s efforts. “From last December right up to today, these kids have been paying the price. We had a great core group of guys that started it all, and every week, that number grew until we really felt like we’ve got a really invested team.”

Skyline has an experienced squad returning on both sides of the ball this season, and with 13 returning starters (five on offense, eight on defense), the Eagles should be packed full of leadership, discipline and a work ethic to lead the youngsters on the team by example.

The three team captains — Champman, Russon and Bowles — appear to be great leaders on and off the field and will need to set the bar for the rest of the team while leading by example.

“I think we’ve got to set it at the top,” Chapman said of his goals and expectations. “We’re expecting the most we can out of our team. We’re expecting high energy every game. We want to see a perfect effort every game, every play and every practice.”

Despite returning 13 starters, Skyline lost two spectacular defensive ends in Hanani Aiono (48 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks) and Jake Wittwer (57 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks), while also losing two key safeties due to graduation.

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