DUCHESNE According to first-year Duchesne High coach Billy Hoopes, Duchesne City has become a football town.
The Eagles have enjoyed tremendous success in football over the last five seasons, advancing to the 1A semifinals in every year during that stretch and winning a state championship in 2006.
Combine all the on-the-field success with the fact that Duchesne residents helped fund the addition of lights to Duchesne High's stadium for the first time in school history, and while it's pretty clear that town residents still love their basketball and other pursuits, it's also evident that football has come to the fore in Duchesne.
Accordingly, the obvious challenge for Hoopes, who took over the program when highly-successful coach Jerry Cowan decided to pursue an opportunity closer to his family, is to keep the program where it's at.
That can be easier said than done.
"The thing about it for me that's put the most pressure on me is there's an expectation to win here," said Hoopes. "It's not like I can come in here and say, 'Hey, it's my first year here. Let's just work the kinks out.' You're expected to come in here and perform and put a winning program out there. I expect to do that."
Hoopes spent four years as an assistant coach to Cowan before the opportunity to take over the program came up, and he said he couldn't be more thrilled.
"This has been my dream job," he said. "It's where I want to be. It's where I'm from. I don't ever see leaving here. I couldn't be happier. Couple months (from now) I might not say that, but really I couldn't be happier being here with these kids."
In Year 1 of the Hoopes era, there's no doubt that the talent is there for Duchesne to build on its five-year run of semifinals.
And it all starts with three-year starter Jake Evans, a bruising 5-foot-10, 265-pound senior lineman.
Evans is one of the strongest players in all of Class 1A if not the strongest and Duchesne will look to him to lead two lines on which he's the lone returning starter.
He relishes the challenge.
"All the seniors before me helped push me, so I'm gonna help push these guys on the line," said Evans.
Hoopes said that Evans benches around 370 pounds, power cleans around 315 pounds and squats around 500 pounds. All three numbers are hugely impressive at the 1A level."Physically," said Hoopes, "he is just so much better than anyone else on our team. And as a leader, he's not a real vocal guy, but when he says something, people listen."
Duchesne Eagles prep football preview
COACH: Billy Hoopes, a native of Duchesne, has taken over the city's football program and hopes to continue its stellar run of success.
KEY PLAYERS: All five of Duchesne's seniors should contribute heavily and will form the backbone of the team. Those five are Jake Evans (OT/DT), Derek Herrera (QB/DB), Selby Reinhardt (RB/MLB), Matt Mott (G/DT) and Jordan Lewis (OT/DE). Additionally, look for Travis Potter, Marty Burt, Jacob Verde, Devin Fabrizio, Shad Thomas and Grant Marett to have big seasons.
QUESTION MARK: Can Duchesne compensate for not having many seniors? The five the Eagles have will all play huge roles, but others guys must step up around them in order to be successful this fall.
LAST YEAR: 7-5, lost to Kanab in the semifinals.
PREDICTED CLASS 1A NORTH FINISH: Second.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: If things go as planned, it's hard to imagine Duchesne not qualifying for the semifinals for the sixth consecutive season. If that happens, the Eagles will probably fight with Kanab and Rich for the 1A championship.
Aug. 22 at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 SOUTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 NORTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 ALTAMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 ENTERPRISE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Monticello, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 LAYTON CHRISTIAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Rich, 4 p.m.Oct. 24 at Parowan, 7 p.m.