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Jordan Pulou Kevin Haynes

MAGNA — When it comes to football, respect is one thing Cyprus craves more than anything else.

The Pirates have often struggled to avoid finishing in the cellar throughout this decade. Matching the depth and talent of more prosperous Region 6 rivals is often an issue keeping Cyprus from setting sail for that elusive higher level.

It is safe to say the Pirates want to use this season to prove they can be as much of a title contender as anyone else in their region.

"Our reputation around the state is that we're from Magna and we're nobody," senior lineman Kevin Haynes said. "All it takes is one year to change everybody's viewpoint. This could be the year."

Cyprus took some positive steps toward setting up a memorable season last fall. The Pirates took many people by surprise after stringing together a 5-1 start and claiming a spot in the 4A playoffs.

Along the way, Cyprus completed a season with a winning record for the first time since 2002.

The Pirates converted plenty of believers coming into this season. Region 6 coaches projected them to finish among region's top half with perennial powers Cottonwood, Highland and East.

If Cyprus lives up to such expectations, it may start with defense. The Pirates shut down many opponents with ease a year ago, allowing 13.2 points per game in their first six games.

Several pieces are in place for another strong group to emerge on that side of the ball. Two of the team's better tacklers — Haynes and Jordan Pulou — are back. Vinny Mirable also returns to anchor a deep secondary.

"Our defense is going to be the strongest point for us," Haynes said.

More question marks exist on offense. Cyprus has some depth with its backs and receivers, but little to none on the offensive line. Pirates head coach Sonny Sudbury graduated several big linemen from last year and lost others to academic issues.

If injuries become a problem, a lack of depth could be a roadblock to success.

"It's nice to have skill kids, but you got to have horses up there," Sudbury said.

Cyprus also faces some uncertainty at quarterback. Chris Peel, who is expected to be the starter, has dealt with injuries the past two seasons. The Pirates lost him for the season a year ago, after he suffered an injury in the second game.

If Peel stays healthy, his teammates think he can make good things happen.

"He's going to make mistakes like any quarterback, but he's a great thrower," Pulou said. "Throws catachable balls and he's a smart kid."

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Cyprus Pirates 2008

COACH: Sonny Sudbury (9th year)

KEY PLAYERS: Defensively, the Pirates look strong. Kevin Haynes (OT/DT), Weston Warr (OG/DE) and Vinny Mirable should lead the way on that side of the ball. On offense, Greg Tishncer (WR/DB) and Jordan Pulou (LB/FB) are workhorses at receiver and running back respectively. Chris Peel (QB) can make things happen with his arm.

QUESTION MARK: Cyprus has a nice amount of depth at the skill positions but is thin at the line. How will things in that unit hold up during the grind of the season? Also, can new quarterback Chris Peel finally stay healthy now that he is the starter?

LAST YEAR: 6-5, Lost in 4A First Round.


POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Cyprus showed signs of being a tough customer in '07. The Pirates lost several stars from that team, but have enough left in the cupboard to be a contender again. Expect Cyprus to return to the 4A first round again, if it can stay healthy. If not, the Pirates could be the odd team out in a tough region.