AMERICAN FORK The summer football camp circuit is over and American Fork left quite an impression.
It may not be a true indication of how a team will compete, but if the 7-on-7 and skill camps do show signs of things to come, the Cavemen may be booking a repeat trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium and the 5A state semifinals. In 2007, they won a couple of the passing camps and word spread that American Fork was a team to watch out for. It proved true as it won a share of the Region 4 title and two play off games before bowing out to the runners-up from Layton.
The camps are set up mainly for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive backs and linebackers, and the 2008 Cavemen faired well in all of them. They had an MVP of the All-Poly camp in Nathaniel Olsen, and the speed of the running backs and receivers left a buzz, setting up reminders of a year ago. Of course, according to coach Davis Knight, it doesn't really matter how that group of players performed.
"We call our linemen our skill guys," he said. "Our philosophy is that it all starts up front and you build from there. We can't do anything without those guys getting it done."
The Cavemen are not going to be the biggest team in the state, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in speed, athleticism and most of all attitude.
"We want to go out and hit people," said lineman Sam Katoa. "When we play a team, we want them to know that they are in for a battle, that we are going to come after them on every play. We want to be the aggressors and be the team that dominates physically. If we do that, we will be all right."
With the loss of 18 starters, American Fork will not be the most experienced team. It will have to rely heavily on first-year varsity players and a number of underclassmen to fill roles. But that doesn't seem to worry this confident bunch.
"We have been waiting and preparing for this for a long time," said quarterback Jordan Lusk, who will be starting varsity for the first time. "We watched how those guys last year did it, so we know what it takes to be successful. It is great that they made it so far, but what they did doesn't mean a thing for us. We are going to have to go out there and prove to people that we can get it done as well."
Besides talking about how physical they want to be, the overall feeling among the players and coaches is that the team speed is going to be the thing that propels this team to among the elite.
"We are not that big, but we have a lot of guys that are quick and fast," said Knight. "There isn't any one guy that is a real blazer, but we have five or six guys that run in the 4.5 (40-yard dash) range."
Along with Olsen being clocked at 4.4-4.5, Evan and Ethan Wright have that burst of speed coaches covet, and Lusk has the athleticism and quickness to make people miss.
"Jordan is a definite leader out there on the field," added Knight. "When he steps in to the huddle, everybody looks to him for direction. It is a luxury to have someone like that in charge out there on the field."Speed, athleticism, physicality and aggressiveness are the traits being talked about with American Fork. If all those components do show up on the field, and if the inexperienced players learn to perform at their highest levels, it could make coach Knight's 28th year at the helm one of his most memorable.
AMERICAN FORK HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
COACH: Davis Knight is entering his 41st season involved with the American Fork football program, including his 28th as the head coach. He is an icon with the Cavemen and is coming off one of the school's most successful seasons with a semifinal berth and Region 4 title.
KEY PLAYERS: Jordan Lusk takes on a big role as he will be the one running the offense at the quarterback position. Ammaron Patone anchors a line that will be key if the Cavemen expect to match the success of last season's squad. Weston Smith and Jaron Kruger have the athletic ability to dominate up front as well. Speedster Nathaniel Olsen was an MVP at the prestigious All-Poly football camp in the summer. Others to keep an eye on include Weston Frandsen, Mitch Harrison, Austin Rich, Jorey Hansen and Ethan and Evan Wright.
QUESTION MARKS: Will the loss of 18 starters be too much for the team to overcome? Only four returning starters is a small number for a team hoping to compete at the 5A level. The Cavemen are also not the biggest team up front and will have to rely on attitude and speed to get it done in the trenches.
LAST YEAR: 9-4
PREDICTED REGION FINISH: 2nd
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: With Region 4 getting only three playoff teams for the postseason, the Cavemen will have to mature quickly. There will be a very good team sitting home and watching, so coach Knight and his squad know how important every region contest will be.
Aug. 22 PROVO 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 HIGHLAND 7 p.m.
Sept. 05 at East 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Skyline 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 SAN MIGUEL, CALIF. 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 SPANISH FORK 7 p.m.
Oct. 03 at Lehi 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 LONE PEAK 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Pleasant Grove 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Timpanogos 7 p.m.