SALEM Normally, football coaches want to prepare their players by playing as many games as possible.
For Salem Hills coach Monte Morgan, however, he's glad that the new school doesn't have a game on Aug. 22 the night when most teams will open the season.
"It's actually going to be a good thing for us," Morgan said. "It will give us an extra week to see where we're at and more time to get ready. These kids are basically learning a new language, and it's my football terminology. They need to learn how to use it in practice, and how to transfer it to the field and how to use it in a competitive and physical way."
Even after several weeks of practice and summer camps, Morgan is still evaluating talent and shuffling kids from position to position trying to find the right mix. In fact, he currently has four players fighting for the quarterback spot and will likely give each a shot at the position in the Skyhawks' first few games.
Even the running back and receiver positions are likely going to be by committee until certain players emerge as team leaders. He's still trying to find those who can block and tackle best, and catch, carry and throw the football best.
"It's all part of the discovery process that we're going through," Morgan said.
What the Skyhawks do know about their team is that they are very young and very inexperienced which can be expected of a first-year school. Of Salem's approximately 70 players, most are sophomore and juniors. Only 11 are seniors.
"We are what we are and all we can do is try to build a system around what we have. What we want are kids who will try hard, who are willing to do things right and listen to their coaches and try to take advantage of the football fundamentals that they are taught," Morgan said.
So far, Morgan says he's seeing those exact kinds of traits in his players, calling them one of the best groups he's ever worked with.
"These kids want to be the best they can be and they're working hard to get there. They trust in what their coaches are teaching them and they trust in each other," he said.
Morgan has always been one to view a football season as a constant work in progress. He says having a new team in a new program is really no different. He believes the Skyhawks can only be successful in their inaugural season if they focus on improving from game to game."I think as long as we're willing to work hard and try to get better from a fundamental standpoint, I think we're going to be OK," Morgan said.
Salem Hills Skyhawks 2008 prep football preview
COACH: In 11 years at Lone Peak, Monte Morgan won six region championships and took the Knights to the playoffs nine times and finished as the state runner-up twice. This is the second time that he's been a new coach at a first-year school.
KEY PLAYERS: The Skyhawks are still trying to define roles and decide which players are going to be the go-to guys and the playmakers. In fact, four are currently vying for the quarterback job sophomores Jordan Robles and Trevyn Mortensen, and juniors Josh Adams and Kolopa Wolfgramm. The three who don't play quarterback are likely going to see starting time at a different position. Senior Tyler Tarter should anchor the team's line and defense, and he'll get some help from, among others, Spencer Killian and Jared Spencer.
STRENGTHS: With the start of a whole new program there's plenty of enthusiasm, unity and no shortage of work ethic. There's also plenty of competition for every starting position on the team, which has every player eager to learn and progress.
QUESTION MARKS: Obviously, with only 11 of the team's 70 players being seniors, the Skyhawks are young and inexperienced. They also are short on depth and size. It might be a few games before a line-up is established and the team's leaders and playmakers are defined.
LAST YEAR: Did not exist
PREDICTED REGION 8 FINISH: Fifth.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Without ever having played a game, few really no what to expect from the Skyhawks. However, first-year schools traditionally struggle because they're young and inexperienced so don't look for Salem Hills to be playing in November.
Aug. 29 DESERT HILLS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Uintah, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 UNION, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 SPRINGVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at North Sanpete, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 CARBON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 DELTA, 7 p.m.Oct. 24 at Emery, 7 p.m.