FILLMORE Despite Millard's obvious disappointment about losing in the 2A football state championship game last year, spirits are high entering the 2008 season and for good reason.
The Eagles return numerous key starters, have one the biggest offensive lines in 2A and are hungrier than ever after two straight state championship game losses.
"We've talked about wanting to be on a state championship team and doing what it takes to be on a state championship team are two different things," said Millard coach Marshall Sheriff.
It starts with the offense, someone Sheriff and his assistant coaches found out right away during the first day of Millard's team camp in mid-July. In the traditional inter-squad scrimmage to wet everyone's appetite, the offense was absolutely dominant.
"Usually your defense just kicks but because your timings not there, but the offense just went right through them," said Sheriff.
It makes sense though.
Millard's offense returns star running back Clancy Mortensen, offensive lineman Sergio Pedroza, Tony Ruvaigaba and Justin Dickins, and several other key players who gained invaluable experience last year when starters were injured.
Mortensen is poised for a dominant MVP-type season after rushing for 844 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior last year.
"He's actually the fastest guy on my team, but I would actually describe him as a power runner," said Sheriff. "But the fastest guy on our team has got to be our tailback, even though we'll have smaller up backs."
Corwin Chlarson is one of those smaller backs who will see plenty of carries. He filled in last year when Millard leading rusher Zack Wilcox missed a few games with injury, and Sheriff said he played great.
Another player who proved himself in injury spot duty is fullback Rendon Shields. When Quincy Thatcher missed a few games with a leg injury, Shields was instrumental in leading Millard to three region victories.
Senior Brad Dallin takes over at quarterback this year, and he'll have a veteran line in front of him.
"We're going to be bigger than we've been for a long time," said Sheriff.
Pedroza, a state champion wrestler, checks in at around 320 pounds, while fellow returning starters Ruvaigaba and Dickins weigh 230 and 200 respectively. Projected starters joining them in the offensive trenches are Cody Johnston and Thomas Kesler, checking in around 250 and 200.
Millard's offense will probably need to lead the way in the preseason while Millard's defense settles in. It might take a while.Three projected junior defensive starters are coming off serious season-ending injuries as sophomores, most of which occurred early in the year. Therefore experience wise they're still sophomores this year.
Millard Eagles prep football preview
COACH: Entering his ninth year as head coach at Millard, Marshall Sheriff owns an impressive 74-20 career record, including a state title in 2001.
KEY PLAYERS: Clancy Mortensen should have a dominant season this year at tailback. He's a fast and powerful runner, who should easily approach 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns if he stays healthy this year. He has three returning starters on the line to block for him: Sergio Pedroza, Tony Ruvaigaba and Justin Dickins. Brad Dallin takes over at quarterback.
QUESTION MARK: Despite returning seven defensive starters, there's amongst the coaching staff about how good the defense really is. The team has critical spots to fill at every position, and a handful of them will be filled by juniors who missed most of their sophomores years with injuries. Mentally, there's gotta be some concerns about the mind set of a team with two straight state championship losses.
LAST YEAR: 12-1, lost to North Summit in championship game.
PREDICTED 2A SOUTH FINISH: First.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The program has lost in the 2A state championship game each of the past two years, and this team is just as capable getting there as well. Taking the next step and actually winning it won't be easy with so many good teams this year, but the potential is definitely there.
Aug. 22 HURRICANE, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Manti, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 BEAVER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 SAN JUAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 SOUTH SEVIER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Richfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Grand, 7 p.m.