For a team fresh off its most disappointing season in several years, an unusual degree of good feelings are permeating the San Juan football program.
The Broncos fell flat in defense of their 2006 state title last fall stumbling to a middle of the pack region finish and a quick exit in the 2A playoffs. But they have plenty of reasons to feel confident that things will be much different this time around.
Most of those reasons start with senior running back Kohler Black.
Black was the team's leading rusher a year ago chalking up more than 1,000 yards to drive the San Juan offense. And with him in the backfield again, Broncos coach Monty Lee knows his team will move the football with ease.
"He is legitimate," Lee said of Kohler. "A lot of coaches talk up their players and they turn out to be duds. But this kid is the real deal."
One reason Kohler excels, Lee said, is because he is a leader on the field and away from it. He spends copious amounts of time in the weight room, setting the standard everyone else including even the linemen.
As good as the senior back is expected to be, he will not be a one-man show out there. Lee expects great things from his receiving corps. The unit features a great deal of depth with Terron Jack who led the team in receiving yards a year ago Nate Einerson and Lewis Sharpe all returning to give new quarterback Kyle Johnson plenty of targets.
Lee thinks Johnson's decision-making skills will help him emerge as a star as the season progresses.
"(He is) probably the smartest kid I've had in a long time just in football smarts," Lee said. "I've had great kids (at quarterback), but he just has a sense for football. Just a real intelligent kid."
San Juan will get thrown into the fire in a hurry. The Broncos open at defending 1A champion Kanab and must hit the road to face Millard, Richfield and Grand as well.
Improving on last year's 6-5 record won't be as easy as it looks, but San Juan knows this type of schedule will only help them get better come playoff time. And Lee thinks, given time, the Broncos can be the force to be reckoned with in 2A again."You just kind of have to sit back and play your cards for a while until you get your best hand," Lee said.
San Juan Broncos 2008 prep football preview
COACH: Monty Lee has had a great deal of success at San Juan, sporting a 42-15 record entering his sixth year at the school. Under his watch, the Broncos have won a state title and a pair of region titles.
KEY PLAYERS: San Juan's offense should be plenty strong with Kohler Black (RB) and Terron Jack (WR) back. Black was the team's top rusher and Jack its top receiver a year ago. Kyle Johnson (QB) will take over under center. Lewis Sharpe (DB), the interceptions leader in '07, returns to lead the defense. Kyle Shumway (OL/DL) and Sean Palmer (OL/DL) should anchor things up front.
QUESTION MARKS: The Broncos expect a top 5 finish in Class 2A this season. The biggest obstacle to that scenario could be how well things develop up front. Can San Juan replace stalwarts such as leading tackler Matt Jeppson, Scott Jeppson and Marcus Conway?
LAST YEAR: 6-5, lost in 2A quarterfinals
PREDICTED 2A SOUTH FINISH: Second.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: San Juan is two years removed from its last state title and has more than enough weapons on offense to run to the title game again in '08. Experience and talent should definitely carry the Broncos deeper than a year ago.
Aug. 22 at Kanab, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Kirkland, N.M., 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 MONTICELLO, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 CEDAR, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Richfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Millard, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 BEAVER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Grand, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 SOUTH SEVIER, 7 p.m.