Note: Olympus finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2012 and tied for first in Region 7 with a 4-1 record. It lost to Highland 20-14 in the first round of the 4A tournament.
SALT LAKE CITY — Olympus has been under the direction of Aaron Whitehead for two years. Now, two weeks away from the 2013 season, the Titans are attempting to become the first team in school history to win three consecutive region championships.
“The last two years we spent so much time trying to implement our offense,” Whitehead said. “Now (that we’ve) got two years behind us, we’re further along this year than we have been. I think there are some things that are a benefit to us, but the problem is kind of that unknown.”
Following realignment the Titans are floating in uncharted waters. Orem, Mountain View, Timpanogos and first-year program Corner Canyon are now shacking up in Region 7 with Olympus, Murray and Skyline.
“There aren’t many that we’re picking up in our region that are going to be simple or easy. Mountain View is up from last year. Timpanogos — Ed Larson does a great job,” Whitehead said. “Orem, I think, is the region favorite and Corner Canyon is the wild card. I truly believe they’re going to be in the fight — they have all this athletic ability coming in from Alta and Juan Diego. I just don’t see Corner Canyon being a typical first-year school.
“We know what we’re going to get with Skyline. They’re going to be tough. They’re a rival. They want more than anything to beat Olympus. We understand that,” Whitehead continued. “We know what we’re going to get from Murray. These new teams in the region we have no idea. It’s hard to gauge. You’d prefer to have the ones you know rather than trying to figure out these guys that you have no idea.”
Unlike last season, however, Olympus isn’t allotting valuable time toward figuring out how to replace basically its entire production on both sides of the ball.
“We do have 11 returning starters on a team that tied for region last year, and a lot of those are key positions,” Whitehead said. “I think we have a chance to compete for that. It’s not going to be as easy as it was the past two years.”
The Titans managed to fight for a co-region championship despite uncertainty last season. Considering that Whitehead believes his team's biggest area of concern is the last position anyone associates with football — kicker — and Olympus seems to be in great shape this summer.
“We need to figure out who our kicker is going to be,” Whitehead said seriously when asked what the glaring weakness is. “We have a couple soccer kids that have come out and one can kick it into the end zone each time, but we need to find someone who is consistent putting it through the goalpost. Otherwise we’re going to go for two quite a bit if we have that opportunity.
“You know, shoot, I guess I should learn their names and quit calling them kicker — maybe they’ll stick around more,” Whitehead said — not seriously.
Olympus Titans at a glance
Coach: Aaron Whitehead has tallied a 15-7 record in two years with the Titans and maintains a 53-31 overall record in seven years of coaching. He’s a graduate of Skyline High and the University of Utah.
(4 returning starters; spread offense)
Last offseason Olympus was in the midst of a battle to determine the starting quarterback with six candidates. Thankfully that number has dwindled down to two in 2013: senior Chase Manning and junior Zack Hodgson.
“We won the Weber State 7-on-7 passing league, and you can’t put too much credence into that just because you’re not playing tackle and you take away the run component,” Whitehead explained. “ In the passing leagues they both looked great. Right now we have yet to name a starter, but we anticipate that starter will be named either Monday or Tuesday of next week so we can move forward.”
Coleman Meier will handle the carries in the backfield.
“Coleman is extremely quick. He took region in the 200 (meters). He is right now a recruitable athlete,” Whitehead said. “Some of the smaller schools are looking at him. He’s not one of the big-time D-I athletes that so many people get excited about — we don’t necessarily get those types at Olympus all the time — but Coleman is going to be our feature back.”
Whitehead also highlighted Jeff Day: “Awesome, awesome, awesome offensive lineman. Very mature last year for a sophomore and obviously mature this year. He’s going to do a good job for us at guard.”
(7 returning starters)
Whitehead was quick to pass the credit for this side of the ball to defensive coordinator Brandon Burt. However, that also means Burt has the responsibility of driving the luxury car without wrecking it. Olympus returns seven starters defensively.
Whitehead raved about free safety Connor Haller, who will also be the primary target at receiver. He's a “ball hawk that can lay the wood and cover the field,” said Whitehead.
Other standouts include Michael Ninivaggi, Ryan Barber and Jeff Faletoi.
“I’m excited (about the defense),” Whitehead said. “There’s some speed and size there and it’s a fun unit. I’m generally more of an offensive guy, but it’s fun to participate on the defensive side. These kids have a lot of passion.”
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Third
Bottom line: The odds are stacked against Olympus, but then again the odds were long last season and the Titans proved the state wrong. They have fewer questions to answer heading into the season, and return enough experience to contend seriously for a state title. The fact that both the Orem and Skyline games are on the road only increases the stakes, but doubting this program is tough to do at this point in time.
Olympus coaching history
2011-current — Aaron Whitehead (15-7)
2009-2010 — Mike Smith (14-7)
2004-2008 — Mark Smith (17-34)
1998-2003 — Mike Miller (48-20)
1991-1997 — Tom Larson (42-20)
1985-1990 — Marc Lyons (33-29)
1974-1984 — Louie Long (76-37)
1971-1973 — Wayne Startin (16-11-1)
1967-1970 — John Christopulos (12-25-1)
1964-1966 — Ron Startin (16-9-2)
1956-1963 — Gil Meier (34-28-5)
1954-1955 — Bill Green (7-10)
1953 — Don Dixon (5-3)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2011 — Scott Porter, QB
2011 — Nate Watchman, OL
2010 — Sam Williams, DB
2009 — Ryan Reynolds, OL
2005 — Ryan Roundy, LB
2003 — Brad Clifford, WR
2003 — Mike Price, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company