Scott G Winterton Deseret News

SYRACUSE — They gather early in the morning to lift weights. They gather in the late afternoon to run sprints. The gather to watch film, learn plays, share ideas, talk trash and just navigate life.

And as the days grow shorter, and the air gets cooler, high school football players everywhere are energized by the endless opportunities of fall.

To kick off the 2010 season, the Deseret News will feature a video countdown of the top 20 prep football teams. The rankings were determined by preseason polls, and the project offers fans a unique glimpse of the top teams.

Today's featured team is No. 15 Syracuse.

The Titans' first football season in 2007 was nothing remarkable. In fact, it was like that of a lot of first-year programs — winless. But almost overnight, the team emerged as one of the state's best programs.

"It was quite a challenge to get our own tradition going," said head coach Russ Jones, who has coached the sport for 33 years. "But it has helped to have good assistants with a lot of experience. They have a lot of good ideas."

If he's surprised at anything, it is how the players embraced his philosophy.

"The kids were willing to buy into what we were doing so fast," he said.

His advice to the players is to play — and live — as best they can. Their team motto — "Leave no doubt — comes from the movie "Remember the Titans."

"It means to leave everything on the field," he said. "Leave no doubt."

When that final game is played, he hopes they have learned something about themselves and that playing Titan football has enhanced their lives.

"My favorite part is just being with the kids," he said. "I just try to enjoy and cherish every moment with the kids."

Backup quarterback Trevor Davis, a junior, said Jones is patient and knowledgeable.

"He doesn't yell too much," said the 4.0 student.

Senior quarterback Tyler Jacobsen said he relishes those pressure moments.

"I like to find myself in the red zone," he said grinning. "That's a good place to be."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com