RIVERTON Realistically, expectations have probably never been higher for a Riverton High football team.
Not only have the Silverwolves recorded three consecutive winning seasons, but 17 starters off last year's 6-5 squad are back.
For a program that's looking to win a playoff football game for the first time in school history, many believe this could be the year that sees the Silverwolves break through and make their mark on the rest of the state.
"I lived in Riverton for 14 years, and I know the kids they have. They're gonna be very competitive," said Bingham coach Dave Peck. "I know they think this is probably the best team they've ever had. I think coach (Mike) Miller does a real nice job with the kids."
There are clearly other things in play, but those 17 returning starters have certainly helped engender the lofty expectations at Riverton High. Seniors have typically dominated Riverton's varsity football squads since Miller became the head coach in 2004, but that wasn't the case a season ago.
"It wasn't a conscious effort" to start lots of juniors last year, said Miller. "We did have quite a few seniors we only ended up starting six of them but it's because the underclassmen just took their spots. We've still got a long ways to go, but it's gonna be fun for me and interesting to see how this group of kids react to really having two years of varsity experience."
Seeing whether those guys can utilize that experience to help Riverton reach the next level will obviously be fascinating to watch, but regardless of how this season unfolds on the field, Miller says he's extremely happy with the state of his program as he enters his fifth year at Riverton High.
"As a program I think we've progressed and gotten better," said Miller, "and I think we're at a point where I wanted to be in five years . . . I think people are seeing what's happening on the field, but I think good things are happening in this program off the field, too."
To that end, there's probably not a better embodiment of that in one individual player than in senior Matt Aston.
A three-year starter at outside linebacker, Miller has loved everything about Aston's presence in his program both on and off the field.
"He's a great character kid," said Miller. "He's one of those kids in school that could be an elitist . . . but he's just an extremely humble kid. And he's intense and he's a competitive fool. That's what makes him great.
"He's not a great, big kid in stature, but he's been a three-year starter because of his character, his work ethic and his competitiveness. He's got the three elements to make a good football player a good brain, a big heart and a lot of guts."
Aston, who said he wants to become a fireman after high school, has dealt with a painful hip flexor for most of his varsity football career, but he still suits up every day and does whatever he can to become a better player."If I see anything that's a weakness, that's what I try to work on," he said.
Riverton Silverwolves prep football preview
COACH: Mike Miller enters his fifth season as head coach of Riverton High and has made his program better year after year.
KEY PLAYERS: Because so many returning starters are back, experience will be a huge strength this fall at Riverton. Some of the key returners include RB Zach Spencer (900 yards and 6 TDs last year), LB Matt Aston, HB Dillon Draper, QB Davis Johnson, C Nick Chavez, WR Tad Carter, DT Eric Briggs, LB Tone Rich and S Matthew Maughan, among others.
QUESTION MARK: Will Riverton have enough size to compete against the elite teams in Class 5A? On paper, for whatever that's worth, the Silverwoves seem to have an abundance of speed. However, particularly when the face the top teams in the classification, it remains to be seen whether they'll have enough size.
LAST YEAR: 6-5, lost to Skyline in the first round.
PREDICTED REGION 3 FINISH: Second.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Amid high expectations, finishing in at least second place in Region 3 and getting a home playoff game in the opening round could be key for Riverton. If that happens, look for the Silverwolves to win their first football playoff game in school history, which would be a big accomplishment for a program that's been building and building.
Aug. 22 TIMPANOGOS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Jordan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 COPPER HILLS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 BINGHAM, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Kearns, 7 p.m.Oct. 23 at Hunter, 7 p.m.