RANDOLPH There's a bit of a buzz in the Northeast region of Utah these days.
The high school football season is still several a few weeks away, but the anticipating is already starting to ramp up for the Rich High School football team last year's 1A runner-ups.
"We have a lot of returning starters from last year. We expect to do well this year, but we know there are good teams in our league," said Rich coach Ashley Brown.
In all, Rich has six returning starters on each side of the ball, including a couple of key lineman, starting quarterback Bradley Holmes and a pair of quality receivers.
The Rebels have been pegged by the coaches to finish first in the 1A North region ahead of Duchesne and Monticello, and those same coaches have tabbed Rich as the No. 2 team in the preseason statewide rankings behind Kanab.
"We have a lot of people coming back, but we lost a lot lineman though, and that's where it matters most in my opinion," said Holmes, who is entering his third year as Rich's starting quarterback despite behind just a junior.
Holmes is the catalyst behind a lot of what Rich tries to do offensively.
The coaching staff likes to keep defenses guessing by running a combination of spread offense, option offense and I-formation offense. Holmes himself prefers the spread, and with the personnel on the team this year n including returning starting receivers Jade Cornia and Caden Andersen n Rich will probably throw the ball a lot more this year.
Some of that has to do with Holmes' comfort with the offense, but also the unproven running back core. Cooper Cornia started in the secondary most of last year, but he's projected to be one of the primary ball carriers this year.
He's more than capable of doing the job, but the coaching staff will definitely try and keep defenses from stacking the box to stuff the run whether it's out of the option or the I-formation.
On the line, Brown says Rich should have several kids over 200 pounds, which he admits isn't very big for most schools but it's big for the Rebels.
Last year Rich was one of the top three defenses in 1A only surrendering 13.8 ppg, and Brown expects much of the same this season.
"Defensively we're always pretty good. We're going to fill in some new kids there, but they should be able to do the job," said Brown.
Rich starts the season a week later than most teams, kicking things off on Aug. 30 with a visit to Mountain View, Wyo. With the limited number of kids in the program, Brown doesn't want to risk an early injuries and opts not to play the UHSAA endowment game.Rich's first three games are out of state, which should prefer the Rebels for their Sept. 19 visit to preseason No. 1 Kanab.
Rich Rebels prep football preview
COACH: Ashley Brown is in his seven season at the helm of the Rebels, having several for seven years as an assistant at Rich prior to that.
KEY PLAYERS: It all starts with junior quarterback Bradley Holmes. A two-year starter already, he led the team with nine rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns last season. The passing game could see a boost in productivity this year with the return of starting receivers Jade Cornia and Caden Andersen. Cornia and Holmes will also start in the secondary, while Andersen will help anchor the defensive line at the end position. Casey Johnson and Tyson Larsen will be counted heavily both on the offensive line and at linebacker.
QUESTION MARK: Rich's running backs are unproven, and could present some problems as the season goes on. The team also has some holes to fill on the offensive line.
LAST YEAR: 8-3, lost in 1A championship game to Kanab.
PREDICTED 1A NORTH FINISH: First.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The Rebels are a lock to make the 1A semifinals. After that, it's a toss up. They're good enough to claim a state championship, but there are several other really good teams in 1A also this year.
Aug. 29 at Mountain View, Wyo., 4 p.m.
Sept. 5 at KEMMERER, WYO., 4 p.m.
Sept. 12 at West Side, Idaho, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Kanab, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 NORTH SEVIER, 4 p.m.
Oct. 3 LAYTON CHRISTIAN, 4 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Altamont, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 DUCHESNE, 4 p.m.Oct. 24 at Monticello, 7 p.m.