Uncharted territory is where the Skyline Eagles found themselves last fall, and it’s not a place they’d like to visit again soon.
For the first time in 30 years, a program with eight state titles to its name missed the playoffs altogether. However, early returns on the 2014 season have first-year head coach Justin Thompson feeling optimistic about getting back to the postseason.
The Eagles are 2-0 after beating Juan Diego 45-14 last Friday.
“Most of these kids who are contributing a lot this year contributed a lot last year, too. I think they definitely have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder about how that all went down,” Thompson said. “They were very, very enthusiastic about training this offseason and trying to kind of reinvent the direction our program was headed.”
Skyline’s success early can be attributed from a statistical standpoint to Braxton Chipman and Aleck Russon. Chipman is eighth in the state with 473 passing yards, while Russon is 10th in Utah with 272 yards on the ground.
Thompson credits his players in the trenches for his team’s nice start.
“I think our offensive line play has improved a lot,” he said. “We’ve got some pretty good guys up there that are doing a lot better job. That’s made a big difference.”
Still, Thompson recognizes that his team has work to do before facing Region 7 foes. Many of the Eagles’ touchdowns have come on big plays, but they’ve struggled to score in the red zone. The first-year coach is also somewhat concerned about the other side of the ball.
“I don’t think that we’ve defended exceptionally well,” he said. “I think if we’re gonna be a championship kind of team, we’re gonna need to defend the run a little bit better.”
MORGAN REBOUNDS: The Morgan Trojans had high aspirations heading into the season, but had to wait longer than most to begin getting those dreams realized.
Because of the intense storms that affected much of the state Aug. 22, Morgan’s Week 1 matchup with Emery was cancelled. The Trojans made up for lost time last Friday by beating South Summit, the top-ranked team in 2A.
With 3:03 remaining in the fourth quarter and the game knotted up at 21, Tyler Kelsey connected with Jake Peterson for a 33-yard touchdown to give Morgan the win.
LAYTON IMPRESSES: Comparing the fact that 20 teams scored at least 40 points Friday with the statistic that only six shutouts occurred, it could be argued that offense ruled the day in Week 2.
Perhaps the most impressive of the six pointless performances was Layton’s blanking of Box Elder. In the Bees’ backfield is BYU-bound running back Riley Burt, along with talented senior signal-caller Connor Udy, but the Lancers held firm in the 7-0 victory.
Leading the way statistically for Layton’s defense on Friday was Taylor Katoa, who had nine tackles and a sack. Parker Williams also contributed nine tackles. Through two games, Williams and Atlas Armstrong lead the Lancers with 14 tackles apiece.
Ryan McDonald is a part-time reporter at the Deseret News. He is a recent graduate of the University of Utah, where he was sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.