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High school football: Highland Rams 2012 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2 2012 11:14 p.m. MDT

Jerry Padilla (Trevor Phibbs) Jerry Padilla (Trevor Phibbs)

Scroll down to see Highland Felt's Facts

Note: Highland finished with a 7-3 overall record and a 3-2 record in Region 6 in 2011. It lost, 28-13, to Logan in the 4A quarterfinals.

SALT LAKE CITY — The sound echoing throughout Highland High as the football team controlled the weight room sounded like a marching army — as if a herd of giants were violently invading.

The noise almost required earplug warnings for the elderly.

"Boom!" "Bang!" The sheer amount of weight being moved from Point A to Point B during dead lifts was the culprit, and that’s exactly what the Rams are striving to be known for.

“Our expectations are to be the meanest, nastiest team in the state,” said Highland junior running back Adam Webber. “We focus a lot on that — just being the toughest team. No one is going to outwork us. We might not have the most guys and the most talent, but we’ll definitely be the toughest team.”

Malcolm Card-Turner (Trevor Phibbs) Malcolm Card-Turner (Trevor Phibbs)

Highland coach Brody Benson echoed similar sentiments.

“We try and pride ourselves on being the toughest team in the state,” he said. “If we can achieve that we have the chance on Friday nights to win some ballgames.”

Highland is big — like “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” big. Not many teams throughout the state can physically challenge Highland. The area of concern heading into Aug. 17 is a lack of experience in the skill positions.

“Every couple of years we kind of have a turnover one way or the other — obviously skill kids vs. your offensive and defensive linemen. We lost a lot of skill kids — two- and three-year starters,” Benson said. “We have a lot of good skill kids right now —good athletes — just really no varsity experience. It’s kind of tough to gauge (expectations) without being able to see how they react in a varsity situation under pressure.”

Luti Nonu (Trevor Phibbs) Luti Nonu (Trevor Phibbs)

Highland isn’t exactly accustomed to having a transitioning period. There’s an unwritten, unspoken mentality that winning happens now — not tomorrow — for the Rams.

“I think there’s definitely a lot of expectations when you come and play Highland football, not only by the coaching staff, but by the kids as well,” Benson explained. “We do have guys that played in 2010 when we won it, so they know what that’s like. They really set the tempo. They see the other guys maybe dragging a little bit and not being up to par how they see practice should be. They stand up and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t how we do it.’”

The Rams will find out quickly what type of year 2012 will be like. After opening against West the Rams play Cedar, Herriman and Lone Peak before heading into a grueling Region 6 onslaught.

Ephraim Schulte (Trevor Phibbs) Ephraim Schulte (Trevor Phibbs)

Highland Rams at a glance

Coach: Brody Benson is manning the Highland sidelines for the seventh season. He has accumulated a 52-22 record in that time span. He’s a graduate of Granger High.

Offense

(4 returning starters; Flex-bone offense)

Highland will emphasize its strength and size in the trenches with its well-renowned option attack.

In the recent past the Rams have relied heavily on the fullback, but with Adam Webber slated to receive the bulk of the carries he adds a different dimension with his ability to elude defenders and break loose around the corner.

David Kocher (Trevor Phibbs) David Kocher (Trevor Phibbs)

“Webber is an explosive athlete,” Benson said. “The biggest thing you’ll notice about him is his overall speed and how he looks at the game. He’s a smart football player and an intense football player.”

Senior Austin Peterson will replace Anthony Smithson behind center. Peterson began earning trust within the locker-room, especially with the offensive line, when he switched lifting groups to form a tighter bond.

“He’s been in the program four years and he’s worked his guts out,” Benson said. “Basically, January hit and he decided this is what he wanted to do — he wanted to be the guy — and it was evident when he came to me and said he wanted to lift with the offensive line."

Defense

Austin Peterson (Trevor Phibbs) Austin Peterson (Trevor Phibbs)

(5 returning staters; Base 4-3 defense)

Highland has a little bit of the Temptations in them. Not by their vocalization skills, but by their mentality of “Fee-fi-fo-fum look out, baby — ‘cause here I come. So, get ready.”

The Rams aren’t afraid to storm the gates. The front seven on defense is as talented as it's been in years. Those guys have the ability to frustrate and confuse opposing offense with blitz-happy schemes.

“We’re coming after you. That’s something that we’ve established here — we love to get after people,” Benson said. “Right now with our front seven we’re going to have the ability to put some pressure on some people. We’re definitely going to pin our ears back.”

Pisinga Vaenuku (Trevor Phibbs) Pisinga Vaenuku (Trevor Phibbs)

Coaches’ Region 6 straw poll: Third

Deseret News Region 6 prediction: Second

Bottom line: Pencil the date into your planner — Oct. 12. That's when East heads into Highland, and it should determine the Region 6 championship. It’s a matchup of two enormously physical option teams and should be a treat to watch. The Rams will win games with their defense while the offense adjusts to new personnel. This team has the potential to make a deep postseason run. It’s just a matter of putting the right pieces in place.

2012 Schedule

Aug. 17 — WEST, 7 p.m.

Aug. 24 — CEDAR, 7 p.m.

Bryan Mone (Trevor Phibbs) Bryan Mone (Trevor Phibbs)

Aug. 31 — at Herriman, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 — at Clearfield, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 — BOUNTIFUL, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 — at Cyprus, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — EAST, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17 — BOX ELDER, 7 p.m.

.....

Felts Facts for Highland High School

All-time record: 371-211-3 (55 years)

Region championships: 15 (1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1986, 1987, 1988 co, 1996, 1997, 2003 co, 2004 co, 2005 co, 2006 co, 2007 co, 2009)

Ben Bergeson (Trevor Phibbs) Ben Bergeson (Trevor Phibbs)

Playoff appearances: 38

All-time playoff record: 49-33

State championships: 5 (1959, 1961, 1963, 1989, 2010)

State championship record: 5-4

Most played rivalry: 54 meetings with East dating back to 1957. Highland leads 32-22. Meet on Oct. 12.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Highland holds the record for biggest comeback in state history. Down 28-0 to Bonneville in second quarter of a 1995 playoff game, Highland scored 31 straight points to win 31-28.

Highland coaching history

2006-current — Brody Benson (52-22)

2001-2005 — Ray Groth (40-21)

Sulias Brown (Trevor Phibbs) Sulias Brown (Trevor Phibbs)

1996-2000 — Larry Wilson (43-14)

1986-1995 — Tom Kingsford (76-36)

1977-1985 — Roger DuPaix (55-38)

1974-1976 — Dennis McLaughlin (7-20)

1971-1973 — Tony Polychronis (10-17)

1966-1970 — Jerry Simons (24-24)

1961-1965 — Bill Fickinger (40-10)

1957-1960 — Larry Palmer (24-9)

.....

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

1997 — Morgan Scalley, QB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

Cody Hilborn (Trevor Phibbs) Cody Hilborn (Trevor Phibbs)

2010 — Nata Fakahafua, WR/DL

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2011 — Quincy Clark, DL

2010 — Sione Houma, RB

2010 — Ono Tafisi, OL

2010 — Desmond Collins, DL

2010— Hayes Hicken, K

2009 — Toi Tafua

2009 — Ono Tafisi, OL

2008 — Latu Heimuli, DL

2007 — Latu Heimuli, DL

2006 — Sean Swenson, QB

Adam Webber (Trevor Phibbs) Adam Webber (Trevor Phibbs)

2006 — Liam McNally, RB

2006 — Braden Brown, TE

2006 — Tim Bickmore, OL

2005 — Thomas Bradley, QB

2005 — Jake Orchard, WR

2005 — David Nafe, DL

2005 — Brett Smith, DB

2004 — Bo McNally, QB

2004 — Marcus Mailei, RB

2004 — David Fainu, OL

2003 — Chris Sullivan, TE

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

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