CLEARFIELD No one is going to confuse Clearfield with being the biggest or deepest team in the state this year.
But when a team such as Clearfield has intangibles such as chemistry, work ethic and somewhat of a chip on its shoulder, it would be unwise to underestimate it.
"We know we don't have the biggest kids," said Clearfield lineman Jeremy Jones. "But we work together and we work hard."
Falcons coach Billy Pluim has had an enjoyable summer working with this year's varsity team. He knows his team will probably be overlooked when people talk about contenders in Region 1. It doesn't concern him.
"This group is a fun group to be around. They're the type of kids who come out and work as hard as they can," Pluim said. "They may not be the biggest kids on the field, they may not be the fastest kids on the field but they're going to battle tooth and nail for everything they got. It's going to be a fun year to coach regardless of what happens out there (on the field) because you know they're just going to do everything they can to win games."
That type of dedication and determination will be needed by Clearfield this season. The Falcons return just three offensive starters and three defensive starters from last year's team that closed its season with a play-in loss to Fremont.
Like last year, Clearfield's strength will probably be on the defensive side of the ball. Justin Parkinson is the team's top returning player at cornerback, as he had five interceptions last season. He had two picks in one game.
"He stepped up as a junior," Pluim said. "He shut down his side of the field as a corner. Quarterbacks kept looking his way and putting the ball up and he was able to make plays for us. He brings a lot of leadership and experience to our secondary, so he'll be a real factor for us."
Mark Cooper, a senior captain and starting defensive end, will bring some toughness to the defense. Chase Neville, the strongest player on the team, will start at linebacker. Will Bullard, who started in a couple of games late last season and recorded two sacks, will form a solid bookend combination with Cooper.
Each of those players will be counted on for leadership.
"The senior leadership, during a normal year, you have four or five guys lead the pack," Pluim said. "This senior class is a little bit smaller, so everyone has taken a mentorship role and helped the younger kids with learning their part on the team and stuff. Their work ethic and leadership are their strongest points."
There's no getting around the fact that Clearfield's offense struggled last season. But there is hope for this year, as Kolton Young, who was thrown into varsity play midway through the season as a sophomore last year, is back as the team's starting quarterback. Just having a year of experience under Young's belt should help the Falcons score more points this season
"You can see that the game has slowed down for him," Pluim said. "Anytime you have a returning quarterback, that's huge."
Running backs Neville and Layton Christian transfer Zack Vigil will look to take some pressure off Young. Vigil has been a solid addition for the Falcons, and quite a surprise for Pluim and his new teammates.
"He's a big, fast, strong kid who comes in and does everything right," Pluim said. "You tell him to run through a brick wall and he'll do it."
The Falcons' success this season depends mostly on their health. Several of Clearfield's starters will have to play both ways. If the Falcons avoid injuries, Pluim believes his team can win the Region 1 championship."Everyone's got a shot at it," he said.
CLEARFIELD FALCONS 2008 PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW
COACH: Billy Pluim is in his third season at Clearfield and has a 7-14 record. His first two teams were eliminated in play-in games. So far, Pluim has done a fine job while dealing with smaller enrollment numbers at his school.
KEY PLAYERS: Their defense will have to keep the Falcons in games. On that side of the ball, look for players such as (CB) Justin Parkinson, (DE) Will Bullard, (LB) Chase Neville, (DE) Mark Cooper, (DL) Jeremy Jones, (LB) Gage Anderson and (LB) Lucas Waddoups to play key roles. The offense will count on (QB) Kolton Young and (RB) Zack Vigil to carry the load, while also receiving contributions from (OL) Quaid Arbon and (WR) Alex Nelson.
QUESTION MARK: The biggest one regarding Clearfield is its depth. An injury to one or two of their key players will be tough to overcome for the Falcons. Another question is whether Clearfield's offense can
score some points.
LAST YEAR: 4-7, lost in a state play-in game
PREDICTED REGION 1 FINISH: Seventh
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITES: It's probably a toss-up if the Falcons can qualify for the playoffs. They play in a balanced, tough region. If they can stay healthy and catch a few breaks, they could finish in the top half of their league. If they're hit with injuries and struggle on offense, they'll miss the playoffs.
Aug. 22 at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 BOUNTIFUL, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Davis, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 LAYTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Weber, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 FREMONT, 7 p.m.