SANDY In the days and weeks subsequent to Alta capturing its first football state title at the 5A level, the celebration seemed rather subdued to Parker Erickson.
There was no rock-star treatment for the Hawks. No parades. No autograph seekers or mobs of adoring fans. And while, theoretically, winning a championship might have helped secure a prom date or two easier, life really didn't seem all that different afterward than it was before.
"It was really nothing special," Erickson, a senior offensive lineman, said. "The school they thought it was cool. But it was just what they expected of us."
Alta expects nothing but the best for this season as well. The Hawks lost a host of starters from last year's championship squad, but that doesn't mean they are about to roll over and fade into the background.
Several talented seniors are ready to step in and fill holes at multiple positions on a team returning only four starters. Leading them will be new starting quarterback Ammon Olsen.
Olsen has minimal varsity experience to his credit and faces a tough task in filling the shoes of Ryan Rosenvall. Rosenvall, the 5A MVP, led his team to its first state title in two decades while throwing for 1,909 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushing for 837 yards and nine touchdowns.
Still, Olsen's throwing abilities are strong enough that he received a scholarship offer from Southern Utah before playing a down this season.
Hawks coach Les Hamilton thinks he has the skills to become a special player.
"He's kind of got all the tools," Hamilton said. "He's big. He's strong. He's got a good arm. He's got good feet. If he stays healthy, I expect him to have a great season."
Olsen should have some good targets downfield. Parker Webster is a returning starter and the team's leading receiver in 2007. Drake Eckholt has enough size and hands to be a capable tight end.
Finding a suitable replacement for star rusher Sausan Shakerin may turn out to be a little tougher task. For now, the Hawks plan to do things by committee in the backfield. Jordan Towner and Chase Herbert, both seniors, will get a long look. Both are undersized backs, but possess plenty of speed.
Defensively, Brady Davies is expected to be an impact player on the line and Trey Phillips brings some much needed varsity experience to the secondary.
Getting these new parts to blend together seamlessly will be important for Alta. This year's edition of the Hawks are much different than the group that took state, but it won't stop teams from trying to knock out the defending champions for the sake of bragging rights.
A victory over the Hawks is still a prized bounty. Few teams or coaches think Alta has lost a step as evidenced by the Hawks no. 1 preseason ranking.""We feel the pressure from other teams and realize we do have a target on our backs," senior defensive end Brady Davies said. "We have something to prove to everyone."
ALTA HAWKS 2008 PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW
COACH: Les Hamilton has built Alta into a certified football power during his four years of coaching the Hawks climaxing in the school's first state title since 1988 last fall. There's no reason to think any drop-off will occur with him on the sidelines.
KEY PLAYERS: Alta is very much a senior laden team, though those seniors have little varsity experience. There's several new players on offense including Ammon Olsen (QB), Jordan Towner (RB) Chase Herbert (RB) and Drake Eckholt (TE). Parker Webster (WR) and Parker Erickson (OL) are among the few holdovers from '07. On defense, the Hawks will look to Brady Davies (DL), Trey Phillips (DB), Garret Smart (LB) and Dan Adams (DL) to play big roles.
QUESTION MARK: Alta typically experiences significant roster turnover from one season to the next, given the coaching staff's desire to start mostly seniors. Can the Hawks reload as quickly this fall after losing more starters than usual?
LAST YEAR: 13-1, beat Layton in 5A championship game.
PREDICTED REGION 2 FINISH: First
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The Hawks are the defending champions are ranked first to start the season and definitely have the talent to stay up there. Expect Alta to pick up momentum as November draws near and make it to a third consecutive 5A title game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Once there, a second straight championship is in the realm of reality.
Aug. 22 SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 BINGHAM, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 vs. Grant, Calif., 7 p.m. (at Sacramento)
Sept. 26 at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 BRIGHTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.Oct. 24 at Jordan, 7 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]