At the start of last season, Uintah played three Class 4A teams within the space of a month and lost all three games in blowout fashion.
The Utes never recovered psychologically.
Though they picked up their lone win of the season during that stretch against lowly Carbon, a tough, tough preseason turned into a tough, tough regular season, and it was all over but the crying in Vernal.
Fast forward 12 months, and second-year coach Doug Harding and his Utes hope to have learned many valuable lessons from the experience. A brutal preseason schedule has been replaced with a very manageable one, and Harding hopes to see much improvement from his team in Year 2 of his tenure.
He also hopes that confidence or a lack thereof won't be a problem for his players this season.
"'Never give up' is a huge thing for us," said Harding. "One of the things these kids need to learn is you're not always going to be winning a football game. But even though you may be losing in the first quarter, it doesn't mean you'll be losing at the end."
Harding hopes increased confidence will come from improved leadership, and he thinks he has personalities that are capable of accomplishing that.
"The biggest thing we're looking for this year is leadership," said Harding. "I feel really strongly that if we get some leadership, it will determine our success.
Near or at the top of that list will be two-year starter Kameron Dearing, who will anchor the offense at tackle and the defense at end. Harding said that Dearing has grown immensely over the last two years.
"He's one of the kids we'll rely on to lead the kids," said Harding.
Additionally, look for some leadership to come from the linebacking corpes. Chris Wilson, Dax Nyberg and Ryker Thacker are all returning starters at the position, and Ethan Hopla and Kevin Barton should also contribute there this season.
"Those guys need to have a big season," said Harding.
With the start of the new season on the horizon, Harding praised the work his players have done in the weight room throughout the offseason, and he said they'll be ready to go in Week 1 when Uintah takes on Desert Hills of St. George."These kids have done a really good job of working hard," said Harding.
Uintah Utes prep football preview
COACH: Doug Harding enters his second season as head coach of the Utes.
KEY PLAYERS: Kameron Dearing (OT/DE) should have a big senior season and has lots of potential to enjoy an even bigger year than the one he enjoyed as a junior. Offensively, Tyler Larsen (WR) and Jordan Kenczka are also returning starters on offense, and they'll be joined on that side of the ball by Ethan Smith, Chris Wilson, Dax Nyberg, Brody Ayotte, Shiloh Reynolds and Austin McColey, among others. Defensively, Wilson, Nyberg and Ryker Thacker are returning starters at linebacker and should be the strength of the unit.
QUESTION MARK: Can Uintah play with confidence from start to finish? A season ago, the Utes struggled through a tough preseason schedule and never recovered. This year, one of the keys for them will be to make sure they keep their heads up regardless of what happens early on.
LAST YEAR: 1-9.
PREDICTED REGION 10 FINISH: Fourth.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Just doing anything in the 3A playoffs would be a huge accomplishment for the Utes. Look for them to better this fall, but exactly how much better remains to be determined.
Aug. 22 at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 SALEM HILLS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 OGDEN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Emery, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Wasatch, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 UNION, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Park City, 7 p.m.Oct. 23 JUDGE, 7 p.m.
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