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Note: Olympus finished with a 9-2 overall record and a 5-0 record in Region 7 in 2011. It lost, 34-14, to Bountiful in the 4A Quarterfinals.
SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t as grueling as the "Junction Boys." No, the revered Paul “Bear” Bryant wasn’t torturing players during the summer months in Texas — issuing bus passes to those who couldn’t survive.
But Olympus coach Aaron Whitehead wanted to figure out the mental capacity of his players. After a successful season and an undefeated Region 7 championship last year, Whitehead and his coaching staff weren’t sure what they had been dealt going into this year.
After all, Olympus has suffered from graduation perhaps more than any other program in the state.
Don’t believe it? Of the 3,762 yards Olympus gained from scrimmage in 2011, the Titans lost 3,602 yards of production. Therefore, with only three combined returning starters on both sides of the ball, Whitehead submerged the team face first in endless sprints and bear crawls.
“As a coaching staff we felt that we needed to test them and push them a little bit more than in years past,” Whitehead said, reiterating the constant supply of water for players to avoid dehydration during the intense heat. “We just ran and ran and ran to the point that there were a couple of guys that were praying to the garbage cans. But not one person stopped — they kept it going.
“That’s not our style, but I just wanted to test their mental toughness and at the end they were running their hardest,” he continued. “I was looking at the other coaches and everyone just had these giant smiles on their faces knowing the mentality of this group.”
Exhaustion has a strange way to form bonds. As the conditioning commenced a unity was formed within an inexperienced group.
“The potential is there. At the beginning of the offseason (we) were extremely raw,” Whitehead explained. “You could see the inexperience, but as the spring and summer have progressed I’ve been extremely pleased to the level of commitment and discipline these guys have put together.”
Whitehead attributed the work ethic to the previous class and the standards they set. They are the first draft of the blueprints the program is hoping to build.
“We’re getting to where we want to be. Our vision is to build a championship program where it’s the norm to be a region champion and be up on the 'Turf,'” Whitehead said. “We’re not quite there but everything we do goes towards that.”
There are expected growing pains this season, but Olympus is hoping to surpass last season’s accomplishments with a deeper postseason run.
“I truly believe that if you don’t have (championship aspirations) as a goal, you sell the kids short. I know that’s what (Skyline) coach (Steve) Marlowe said the other day,” Whitehead said. “Every game we go into we expect to win. If we don’t we won’t win it. You never know — the run to the state title is a crazy thing.
"You never know what happens in November.”
Olympus Titans at a glance
Coach: This is Aaron Whitehead’s second season pacing the sidelines for Olympus after a 9-2 inaugural season. In seven years of coaching he’s garnished a career record of 48-23. After a stint at East High school, Whitehead earned valuable coaching experience as a graduate assistant at BYU. He’s a graduate of Skyline High.
(2 returning starters; Spread offense)
The Titans are a pass-oriented offense; therefore, replacing QB Scott Porter (2,586 passing yards with 23 touchdowns) is the main priority.
With the season-opener on Aug. 17 approaching, Olympus has a whopping five quarterbacks competing for the starting gig. It’s extremely risky this late in the offseason to have multiple players competing for the position in fear of division amongst the team.
“It’s a great stress,” Whitehead said. “ (But) it’s a luxury to have this problem."
The mixture is comprised of two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore: Corbin Anderson, Connor Haller, Zack Hodgson, Griffin Orme and Chase Manning.
“Every one of them is absolutely capable of running this offense,” Whitehead said. “This week — and we’re only into our third session here — holy cow. We’re seeing some great things. They’re all athletes and every single one them could be somewhere else on the field and they’ll start somewhere else. It’s not like we just have five sub-par kids. They’re all great.”
Naming a starting quarterback is crucial, and the odds are high that happens in the near future.
“I want a clear-cut starter,” Whitehead said. “I’m not a fan of splitting time at quarterback — not at all.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Olympus increased the percentage of run plays this fall. Right now, it’s the strongest position on the depth chart with three quality sprinters.
Anthony Schoenfeld, only at 5-foot-6 and 140-pounds, is a deceptive back that’s extremely dangerous in the open field.
Jake Jones is a traditional between-the-tackles powerback. He’s “fantasy” players dream, as he’s expected to pick up short yardage in goal-line situations.
Then, Coleman Meier has potential to become a highlight express with what Whitehead described as, “absolute gamebreaking speed.”
(1 returning starter; Base 4-3 defense)
Olympus truly is an unknown on defense this season. With only one returning starter it’s a great possibility Olympus will struggle early in the season.
The secondary is regarded as an explosive, speed-driven unit. Tate Benson, a rangy, big-hitting safety, will intimidate opposing offenses from trying deep post routes across the middle.
In 2011, the Titans surrendered 14 points or less seven times. It’ll be a great accomplishment if that mark is approached this year.
Coaches Region 7 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Third
Bottom line: The region championship still goes through Olympus, but the odds of the Titans repeating this season are unlikely. The Titans simply are too inexperienced to challenge Herriman and Skyline, which at this point seem extremely solid in Region 7. A game to circle is Sept. 14 at Westlake. If everything goes according to plans that could determine the third and fourth spot. Come October, if Olympus finds a grove it has the athletes to surprise doubters. It’s safe to say it would be a tough draw to face Olympus in the first round of the playoffs ultimately.
Aug. 17 — SKY VIEW, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — ALTA, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — MURRAY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at Herriman, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Olympus High School
All-time record: 333-245-9 (59 years)
Region championships: 9 (1964, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1998, 2001 co, 2003 co, 2011)
Playoff appearances: 30
All-time playoff record: 27-28
State championships: 2 (1984, 1998)
State championship record: 2-2
Most played rivalry: 52 meetings with East dating back to 1955. Olympus leads 27-23-2. Last met in 2010.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Olympus holds the championship-game record for most takeaways. The Titans revcovered four fumbles and intercepted seven passes (also a state title-game record) in capturing the 1984 Class 4A title over Alta.
Olympus coaching history
2011-current — Aaron Whitehead (9-2)
2009-2010 — Mike Smith (14-7)
2004-2008 — Mark Smith (17-34)
1998-2003 — Mike Miller (48-20)
1991-1997 — Tom Larson (42-20)
1985-1990 — Marc Lyons (33-29)
1974-1984 — Louie Long (76-37)
1971-1973 — Wayne Startin (16-11-1)Comment on this story
1967-1970 — John Christopulos (12-25-1)
1964-1966 — Ron Startin (16-9-2)
1956-1963 — Gil Meier (34-28-5)
1954-1955 — Bill Green (7-10)
1953 — Don Dixon (5-3)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2011 — Scott Porter, QB
2011 — Nate Watchman, OL
2010 — Sam Williams, DB
2009 — Ryan Reynolds, OL
2005 — Ryan Roundy, LB
2003 — Brad Clifford, WR
2003 — Mike Price, OL
2002 — R.J. Rice, RB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.