KAYSVILLE It isn't the other Region 1 powers, injuries or having a sophomore quarterback that mostly concern Davis coach Ryan Bishop about the 2008 football season.
As always, Bishop is more interested in his own players and how they're coming together as a team. If they buy into the program, represent their school in a positive way and have fun with each other, he believes the success will follow.
"There's so much more to being a football player than two-a-days," Bishop said. "There's taking care of things in school, and being high-character young men, and they know that's what we expect in our program. We call it the Davis High Way. Right, wrong or indifferent, that's kind of how we try to approach things."
It's a formula that's working quite well for the Darts. Bishop, who will be in his eighth season at Davis, has coached the Darts to a state championship, a semifinal berth and two quarterfinal appearances. Expectations are high at Davis this season because the team returns some players at key positions. Bishop said if the current players follow the Davis High Way, they'll have a shot at fulfilling those lofty expectations.
The Darts' strength between the lines this season is the same as what is a major question mark for some of the other Region 1 contenders their offensive and defensive lines. Senior James Cowser was an honorable mention all-state pick last season, and junior Josh Kariya will be a force this year. As a sophomore last season, Kariya racked up seven sacks during the regular season.
"Right now, I really think we got a group of linemen who can help us," Bishop said. "We've got to create depth on both sides of ball. We're counting on kids to play well and have some success."
Davis' defense will also play a big role in the team's success. It has the chance to be special this season with Cowser, Kariya and returning contributors in defensive back Jordan Welk, safety Sam Lloyd and linebacker Marshall Burton.
The Darts' offense will likely be directed by sophomore quarterback Gavin Fowler. Senior Kelvin Taylor was expected to be the starter, but he broke his femur in a four-wheeler accident in late May. He'll be able to play this season, but not after missing almost an entire summer of workouts.
Welk, at receiver, will play a big role in the team's offense. A sleeper on the team could be Ryan Avery. He is a track star who won't get caught by many people when he gets in space. If he stays healthy, he could have a big season.
Davis Darts 2008
COACH: Ryan Bishop (8th year)
KEY PLAYERS: The Darts have some stars in the trenches and on defense. Senior (OL/DL) James Cowser and junior (OL/DL) Josh Kariya should have big seasons. The team's defense will be solid with (DB) Jordan Welk, (S) Sam Lloyd and (LB) Marshall Burton returning. On offense, sophomore (QB) Gavin Fowler will probably be in charge, and he'll have weapons to work with in Welk and (WR) Ryan Avery.
QUESTION MARK: The team has some depth issues, but a bigger concern may be the offense. Gavin Fowler certainly seems to be a capable quarterback, but it's important to remember that he's only a sophomore and may go through some growing pains.
PREDICTED REGION 1 FINISH: Fourth
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The Darts shouldn't have much trouble qualifying for the 5A playoffs. They certainly seem to be an upper-tier Region 1 team. Davis has the talent, coaching and ability to reach the quarterfinals, and it may even reach Rice-Eccles Stadium for the first time since winning the state title in 2004.