Note: American Leadership Academy finished with a 2-7 overall record in 2012 and was seventh in the 2A North region with a 1-6 record.
SPANISH FORK — Chas Ryan, in his first year as American Leadership Academy's head football coach, will try and take a page from the school’s state champion boys soccer team.
It won’t be easy.
State championships are extremely difficult to win in any sport, and they're even tougher to win in football.
But Ryan and Co. have been inspired by what their school did last spring.
“What they did in soccer was awesome and it absolutely provides some inspiration for us,” Ryan said. “We have unique challenges here, though, and we’re focused on just getting better as a program and first making the playoffs.”
Ryan is keenly aware of the challenges he faces at ALA because he was previously an assistant coach at the school for six years. A rigorous travel regimen, lack of a winning tradition, and, most of all, lack of available players can prove difficult to overcome.
“I think we finished last season with just 20 healthy players available to us, so that can be real difficult to play with and to stay competitive,” Ryan said. “Absolutely a big part of my focus is to simply find more players who can help us and I think we’ve done that heading into this season.”
Ryan expects to have 40-45 players in the program come the team’s first game against North Sevier.
Quarterback Hunter Smith leads the way after finishing last season as the starter, and he's joined by running back Lincoln Henderson.
“It’s nice having two good players at quarterback and running back and I feel we’ll have a good offensive line,” Ryan said. “We return three of our starting offensive linemen and only one of them will likely have to play (on defense), at least at the start of the year. It all starts in the trenches, so it‘s good that we‘re looking strong there.”
Ryan has changed some things on offense and will work to shorten games to keep his team competitive.
“We’re going to run the ball a lot more to run some clock and to hopefully keep games closer at the end,” he said. “I think we have the type of running back and offensive line that will help us do that effectively.”
The hope for ALA is to surpass its mark of two wins from last season while showing the community a winning, competitive program.
“We need to show people that we can win here and play good football,” Ryan said. “Wins haven’t come easy here, but we need to show people that they can play good football at American Leadership Academy. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but from what I’ve seen from my players in the offseason, they’re ready for that work and to do what it takes.”
American Leadership Eagles at a glance
Coach: Chas Ryan has playing experience at both Iowa and Snow College and has been an assistant at ALA for six years.
(6 returning starters; multiple formation offense)
Ryan will depend a lot on an offensive line that returns three starters from last year. Jake Atwood, Jake Staley and Mike Monson lead the charge for the Eagles.
"It all starts in the trenches and we think we have some guys that can really fight and give us a chance to win on the offensive line," Ryan said. "Fortunately it looks like I won't have to use a lot of the guys on defense, so that should help us."
(5 returning starters; 4-3 defense)
Ryan worked as defensive coordinator before becoming head coach and will keep his system largely in place.
"I like the talent we have on defense and hopefully the offense can be productive enough that they don't have to be on the field as much as we've had to in the past," he said.
Coaches preseason 2A North straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 4 prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: Increased depth should provide more than two wins for ALA this season. Should the team remain healthy throughout the season it could make a push for the postseason.
Felt’s Facts for American Leadership Academy
All-time record: 10-59 (7 years)
Region championships: 0
Playoff appearances: 5
All-time playoff record: (0-5)
State championships: 0
State championship record: (0-0)
Most played rivalry: Seven meetings with Manti dating back to 2006. Manti leads 7-0.
Felt’s Factoid(s): ALA is one of six private schools that compete in football. ... Eagle Jordan Lamb is one of just 16 prep gridders in Utah to return an interception 100 yards (2011).
American Leadership coaching history
2013 – Chase Ryan (0-0)
2012 — Bobby Kauo (2-7)
2009-2011 — David Lewis (6-25)
2007-2008 — Tom Fell (1-19)
2006 — Ron Olsen (1-8)
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.
American Leadership Academy quarterback Hunter Smith talks about his team and expectations for the 2013 season.
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