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, Miller said. "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."
Seeing whether those guys can utilize that experience to help Riverton reach the next level will be fascinating to watch.
"As a program I think we've progressed and gotten better," Miller said, "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," Miller said. "He's one of those kids in school that could be an elitist ... but he's just an extremely humble kid."
COACH: Mike Miller (5th 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 Silverwolves seem to have an abundance of speed. However, particularly when they face the top teams in the classification, it remains to be seen whether they'll have enough size.
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.