RANDOLPH In 1A football, it's not terribly uncommon for freshmen to contribute in some way.
To have three players start at key positions from day one is uncommon, however, especially at Rich High School.
"These are the first three that have started since I've been here," said Rich coach Ashley Brown, who's in his 14th year at Rich High, seven as the head coach.
Bradley Holmes, Tyson Larsen and Cooper Cornia have defied the odds since they graduated from eighth grade. And though they're still just juniors, they're a big reason why expectations are very high for last year's 1A runner-ups.
Holmes is entering his third year at quarterback and defensive back, whereas Larsen will be a three-year starter at center and linebacker and Cornia a three-year starter in the secondary.
"I know other schools have that, but these kids not only started but they contributed," said Brown. "They were actually out there helping us, I think that's what makes them usual."
It all started after their eighth-grade year when Brown told them if they worked hard in the offseason they could contribute right away at the varsity level. That was all the motivation they needed to hit the weights hard all offseason.
Cornia acknowledges they were each a bit lucky to move into the program when their respective positions all had vacancies, but their work ethic made the decision to start them very easy.
It doesn't mean it wasn't a shock. Playing junior high football in the southwest Wyoming league, Holmes said making the jump to varsity football in Utah was a huge jump.
"It's totally different style football, but it's a lot more fun," he said. "It's just faster. It's good to be able to come and play Utah schools."
Holmes obviously had a big learning curve, but the offense was was nothing new to him. His father was his little league coach, and as many programs do across the state, Rich's little league schemes mimicked the high school offense and defense.
Rich plans on mixing up its standard I formation with some spread offense, a move that has Holmes salivating.
"I love the spread, I just love motioning guys. It keeps the defense guessing, and then you can always throw out of the spread, and that's what I like to do," Holmes said. "It all depends on what we have, and this year I think it's going to work best for us."
Larsen has been snapping Holmes the ball from his center position for two years now, and Brown is continually impressive with his work ethic.
"It's hard for a freshman lineman to come in and do well, but he's done a great job the last two years. There's times he's been beat, but the kid doesn't give up, he works harder the next week to get better," Brown said.
Larsen has bulked up to 200 pounds this offseason, and figures to be one of the top centers in 1A football.
Of the three, Cornia is the one who got smacked around the most the past two years coming up from his defensive back position to stop the run. Laughingly looking back on those days, he said, "I just tried to hit them lower next time."
"He's a smart kid who works his butt off. He plays hurt, he won't get off the field if he's hurt," said Brown.
For all their contributions on the field, Brown believes perhaps their biggest impact has been off the field."You get older kids who think that just because they're older they get to play. Doing this shows them that's not necessarily the case," Brown said. "You've got to be the best at that position to be able to play, so it does push the older kids."
1A NORTH PROJECTIONS
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. RICH: A year after coming up short in the 1A championship game, the Rebels return six starters on both sides of the ball and should be able to make another run at the title. Offensively, the team will mix things up with some spread, some I-formation and some wishbone. It's a lot for quarterback Bradley Holmes to handle, but the three-year starter is ready. Jade Cornia and Caden Andersen are two excellent receiving options when Rich does throw. Big things are expected from Casey Johnson and Tyson Larsen as well, with both players starting at offensive line and linebacker. 2007 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Kanab in championship game.
2. DUCHESNE: According to first-year coach Billy Hoopes, Duchesne City has become a football town in recent years, and Hoopes hopes to provide those football-crazy fans with plenty to cheer about in Year 1 of his tenure at Duchesne. Hoopes took over the Eagles' football program from Jerry Cowan, who left to pursue a business opportunity closer to his family, and the young coach inherits a talented cast of characters that's certainly capable of big things. It all starts with interior lineman Jacob Evans, who will anchor both of Duchesne's lines. Behind him on offense, big things are expected from senior tailback Selby Reinhardt (308 rushing yards and six TDs in 2007) and senior quarterback Derek Herrera. Fellow seniors Matt Mott (OG/DT) and Jordan Lewis (OT/DE) should also contribute heavily, as should juniors Travis Potter (FB/LB), Marty Burt (TE/DE) and Jacob Verde (RB/OLB). 2007 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.
3. MONTICELLO: Expectations are very high down south, with J.C. Hall calling this team the most talented he's had in his four years as head coach. They've got experience, too, with 10 returning starters on offense and eight on defense. The Buckaroos' strength will be on the offensive line, with five returning starters, including senior Jesse Barton. Big things are expected from senior Daniel Torres. A contributor since his freshman year, he only played five games last year after suffering a season-ending injury. Chase Randall will be key as well starting at running back and linebacker. 2007 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.
4. ALTAMONT: There's plenty of experience back for the Longhorns, but coach Daniel Zabriskie's team is still young with only three seniors. Nonetheless, they should definitely win more than one game this year. Junior Bryson Foy is back for his third year at quarterback, while the offensive line in front of him is led by sophomores Zag Brinkerhoff and Dalton Smith. Talon Carter, Waylon Thompson and Zach Hatch will all see plenty of carries out of the backfield. WR/DB Garrett Sorensen is back after missing all of last year with a broken elbow . 2007 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.
5. LAYTON CHRISTIAN: Following a one-win season last year, second-year coach William Hawes seems poised to turn things around. With seven starters back on defense and five on offense, he says the focus this year is to open the season strong instead of waiting until late September to realize they can play with teams. Most of his seniors have been contributing since they were sophomores, so the potential is there. Leading the way on defense is linebacker Rodney Hamilton and defensive end Kyle Hoover, who combined for 195 tackles last year. Hunter Thompson will be a key contributor on the offensive and defensive line. 2007 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Missed the playoffs.
1A SOUTH PROJECTIONS
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. KANAB: The defending 1A champs should be a force again, particularly on offense. Thomas Chamberlain and Tony Visser are two of the four returning starters on the offensive line. Their presence is great news for senior fullback Bryce Hafen, junior running back Justin Orton and junior quarterback Craig Brinkerhoff. Kanab averaged 33.3 points last year, and the personnel is there to be just as productive again. Defensively, Kanab returns five starters from a unit that held teams to 11.7 ppg. Coach Bucky Orton says the team still has some holes to fill, but the Cowboys should be fine nonetheless. 2007 RECORD: 12-1. PLAYOFFS: 1A state champions.
2. NORTH SEVIER: First-year coach Ryan Higgs led North Sevier into the quarterfinals last year, and he's hoping to take the next step this year with a team that returns nine starters on defense and seven on offense. The Wolves lack a lot of size, but Higgs believes his team makes up for it with speed and quickness. Tanner Larsen is back at quarterback after throwing for eight TDs last year, whereas Wyatt Mason returns after rushing for 721 yards and a team-leading seven TDs last year. Evan Pettit and Bobby Robins are returning starters as well on both the offensive and defensive end. 2007 RECORD: 4-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.
3. ENTERPRISE: Under second-year coach Barry Jones, the Wolves are mixing things up based on personnel and going with the spread offense. They've been a power team in the past, but Jones doesn't believe that approach can work this year. Slade Moyle will start at quarterback as a sophomore, and his primary receiver threats in the spread offense will be Jonathan Cervantes, Ryan Jones and tight end Austin Moyle his older brother. Both offensively and defensively, the stretch of this team is with the underclassmen, which presents some problems. 2007 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the semifinals.
4. PAROWAN: When Parowan narrowly lost to Rich in the playoffs last year, it was proof that coach Matt Labrum has the program headed in the right direction. With five returning starters on each side of the ball, including senior quarterback Nick Wood, the Rams may sneak up on some teams this year. That's, of course, assuming the brand new offensive line produces. Parowan graduated its six top offensive linemen from last year, and Matt Lister, Garrett Pickett and Colin Shurtleff are hoping to fill three of those voids. Middle linebacker Brett Cecil will anchor the defense. 2007 RECORD: 3-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.
5. MILFORD: Only 14 players were on the team at the end of last season, but in 2008 coach Robert Langston has 32 players on the squad. Two of those players return from Idaho after playing for Milford their freshman years. One of those players is quarterback Jacob Hyde. After sitting out last year to focus on basketball, Cade Boyter will start at tailback during his senior season. Adam Pearson will be a defensive stalwart. Nate Pectol was leading rusher last year and he is back. 2007 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Missed the playoffs.
TUESDAY: 2A North preview