The Brighton High football camp is lively, enthusiastic and players are "communicating" as they work through customary drills preparing for the first game on Aug. 22.
Third-year coach Ryan Bullett exhorts his team to focus on good workouts and emphasizes communication as vital on the field, reminding his players that the coaches aren't out amongst the action and it is up to the players to communicate with each other.
The Bengals are aiming to return to gridiron prominence. "We are trying to rebuild after some sub-par years," said Bullett.
One of the first steps is to create the right atmosphere, and Bullett is working on that. "I like the attitude," he said, "the teamwork that is goin' on."
But one obstacle he hopes to overcome this year is the injury bug. "Somehow when you go through injuries," said Bullett, "it gets contagious."
He noted, "In a couple of games last year, we had 15 guys standing on the sidelines watching. We need every kid."
He says Brighton's numbers are down only about 50 kids make up the varsity. And totals for the entire program are under 100 a common complaint among many coaches these days.
One of the injury victims from last year is cornerback Tyler Zaelit, who missed the second half of the season with a concussion. He is certified healthy for this year and remains upbeat. "We're confident," he said alluding to getting the Bengals back on track as a feared program.
Bullett sees the defense as being a key. "We need to get back to playing Brighton defense," he said, "stingy defense."
He expects Aaron Phillips to lead that defense from his safety position, and accordingly he corrected Phillips' own assertion that he would be playing offense at quarterback, running back and wide receiver in addition to his defensive chores. Phillips is the fastest player on the team with 4.5 speed, but Bullett reminded that he can't play everywhere: "We need him to be our leader on defense. He will see spot play at running back and receiver on offense."
Phillips was another of the Bengals' injured last year with a broken thumb. It is mended now, but he said he is a better swimmer than football player and has yet to decide what he is going to do in college. With a 3.95 GPA, he should have plenty of options.
One player who was not injured last year is Chip Kiser. He started every game last year at right guard and his coach is very high on him. Said Bullett, "His technique is as good as any kid we have ever had."
However, with a smallish frame of 6-foot and 195 pounds, he won't play football in college. Actually, he will play English football in college he is headed for the University of Utah to play rugby.
The biggest lineman for the Bengals is Ricky Heimuli, a junior weighing in at 275 pounds. "We expect him to be our next all-state lineman," said Bullett. "He is starting to figure out that he is a darn good football player."With reference to the Bengals getting back to their former might, Bullett concluded, "We're going to take another step this year."
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Brighton Bengals 2008
COACH: Ryan Bullett (3rd year)
KEY PLAYERS: Aaron Phillips needs to take a leadership role on the defense. Jale Felix is the most athletic player on the team. Bullett said: "He has a great vertical jump. He can go up and get the ball" (at wide receiver and DB). Alex Whittingham is a junior linebacker and a good "run stopper."
QUESTION MARK: Bullett said he needs a few younger players to step up.
PREDICTED REGION 2 FINISH: Third.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: This year, Region 2 takes the top four teams to the playoffs instead of the top three, giving Brighton a better chance to get in. But this region is tough.