It's always good to have a lot of returners coming back. It gives you a lot of confidence and makes the learning curve for the new year a lot easier when you have a lot of guys. —Coach Weston Zabriskie

Note: South Sevier finished with a 4-6 overall record and finished in sixth place in Region 2A South with a 2-5 record in 2012. It lost in the first round of the 2A playoffs, 55-18 against Millard.

MONROE — After a seemingly disappointing 4-6 campaign in 2012, the South Sevier Rams' expectations and excitement have never been higher heading into the 2013 season.

"Last year, we had a little bit of a struggle. But when you consider that we lost two games in the middle of the year by one point each, we were a couple of points away from being 6-4 or 7-3, as opposed to 4-6," said head coach Weston Zabriskie.

With an experienced and talented 12 starters returning — five on the offensive end and seven on defense — the Rams' depth is going to be key to their success this season.

"It's always good to have a lot of returners coming back. It gives you a lot of confidence and makes the learning curve for the new year a lot easier when you have a lot of guys," Zabriskie said. "We've got two or three three-year starters and we have a four-year starter coming back on the offensive line, so experience is always something good to have if they can get those other guys to step up," Zabriskie added.

Despite losing its top two running backs Garrett Johnson and Alan Pututau, who got the majority of the work in the backfield, combining for 1,029 yards and 13 TDs on 171 carries, the Rams have five solid running back options for the upcoming season.

The Rams expect their new backs Riley Blackham (45 carries for 98 yards and two TDs in 2012), Devin Bishoff, MaCalin Mitchell, Avery Healey and Roger Hall to fill the big shoes left behind by Pututau and Johnson. Zabriskie feels confident that these young, talented players will be able to step up and perform in the trenches, and feels that their depth in the running back position gives them an advantage.

"We are excited. We did lose our top two backs, but between Blackman, Bishoff, Mitchell, Healey and Hall, we feel that whichever one we plug in, they have the ability to get good positive yards every play," said Zabriskie. "They are all similar in talents, but they all add something different. We feel that we will always be able to have a fresh running back in there that gives an opportunity for big plays and always is going to give us positive yards."

The Rams will have five players on the offensive line with a lot of experience — in addition to a new offensive line coach — to help open up some holes for their running game.

South Sevier will also be looking to fill the void of losing its top two tacklers from 2012, Pututau and Patrick Baker, who combined for 175 tackles, four sacks and one interception. Pututau was an anchor for the Rams' defense as he averaged 9.9 TPG and even totaled an impressive 20 tackles in a single game.

"We lost those two (Pututau and Baker), but other than that, we've got just about everybody else coming back. Wyatt Anderson (OL/DL) is coming back, we've got Wyatt Hansen, the three-year starter, and we've got our top returning linebacker MaCalin Mitchell (33 tackles, two sacks in 2012) who'll be a two-year starter," Zabriskie said. "We've got a lot of good, solid experience coming back in a lot of defensive positions. We feel if we get a one or two touchdown lead, we should be able to rely on our defense to hold on to that."

The Rams are expecting big things from this season from four-year starting senior Wyatt Anderson (OL/DL), who totaled 48 tackles and led South Sevier with nine sacks, Avery Healy (37 tackles in 2012), Riley Blackham (33 tackles, two sacks in 2012), Trevor Tobler (28 tackles, two picks in 2012), Wyatt Hansen (20 tackles, two sacks in 2012), and even 2012 Honorable Mention All-Stater Trevor Jones, the Rams' starting quarterback and defensive back.

Jones was a leader and filled the stat sheet for South Sevier last season, throwing for 1,252 yards and 10 TDs, but gave up nine picks. Jones also managed to run the ball 73 times for 162 yards and three touchdowns, also contributing 36 tackles and four interceptions on the defensive end.

"Trevor is a kid who is only going to be a junior and we feel can really step up and make a huge difference for us. If we can give him the time and the space at quarterback, he can really open things up for us," Zabriskie said.

With all the returning starters, depth and versatility this South Sevier program has, the expectations are at an all-time high for Zabriskie and the Rams. With good experience, a good offseason training program and a solid core returning on the offensive line and defense, the South Sevier football program seems ready to take the next step towards a region title and prove it belongs with the best of them.

"We've got a lot of expectations. This is my fourth year as the coach, so I've got my own kids that have completely been through my own program, so we've raised expectations," said Zabriskie. "We're expecting kids to step up and play to what we are expecting, which is to the top-tier of 2A. We are expecting to compete for a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and we are expecting to make a deep playoff run.

"We've put a goal that we want to compete for the region championship. We feel that we have a team put together that if they believe in themselves they can go out and get a region championship," Zabriskie said. "When the playoffs start, our goal is to go as far as we can. We have the goal to play for a state championship, but we also have a goal to go out each week and work to get better and find ways to increase our competition, so come the end of October, first of November, we are playing our best football. If we do that, anything can happen in the playoffs."

South Sevier Rams at a glance

Coach: Weston Zabriskie is entering his fourth year as head coach of the South Sevier Rams and has amassed an 8-23 record in his first three years.

Offense (5 returning starters; pistol-spread/I-back formations)

The team should be much more competitive in the 2A South Region and more comfortable and versatile with 12 starters returning this season. The Rams will need to replace their two top rushers Alani Pututau and Garrett Johnson, but have a lot of depth in the running back position. Expect Riley Blackham to get the majority of the carries out of the backfield, but with five backs capable of entering the game at any moment and an experienced and powerful offensive line, the Rams should have no problem replacing their running game from a year ago. Quarterback Trevor Jones will need to eliminate his turnovers but should be a lot more comfortable in his second year starting for the Rams. Jones is also elusive and explosive in the open field, giving the Rams even more speed to threaten the opposing defenses.

Defense (7 returning starters)

Despite losing its top two tacklers from last season, South Sevier is in great shape with seven returning starters and Wyatt Anderson and Wyatt Hanson anchoring the defense, with several other key contributors returning to the squad. With so much depth, experience and players playing on both sides of the field, they should be familiar with the defense, be more balanced and make great improvements from a year ago.

Coaches' preseason Region 2A South straw poll: fourth

Deseret News preseason prediction: third

Bottom line: With 12 returning starters, an experienced offensive line and the acquisition of a new offensive coordinator, the South Sevier Rams should make big strides in 2013. Quarterback Trevor Jones should make a huge impact on both sides of the field, while the Rams' five new running backs should make splashes in the trenches with help from their powerful offensive line. South Sevier's strong and experienced defense should give the Rams a chance to be a winning program, as long as the offense clicks and Jones eliminates his interceptions. South Sevier must be successful in its region matchups in order to become an above-average team and prove it can compete in the playoffs with the best of them.

South Sevier coaching history

2010-current — Weston Zabriskie (8-23)

2003-09 — Travis McAllister (34-35)

1998-2002 — Clint Christiansen (26-26)

1993-97 — Brent Hafen (7-38)

1992 — Ron Winegar (1-8)

1991 — Rick Orr (1-7)

1984-90 — Alfred Frehner (13-48)

1981-83 — Garry Walker (6-20)

1980 — David Hare (6-5)

1971-79 — Richard Orr (55-39)

1970 — Mike Jones (2-9)


Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2012 — Wyatt Anderson, OL/DL

2011 — Patrick Baker, RB/DB

2010 — Logan Baker, TE/LB

2010 — Clayton Higginson, OL/LB

2009 — Ryan Anderson, OL/DL

2009 — Dillon Bishoff, WR/LB

2009 — Jace Mecham, OL/LB

2008 — Landon Leavitt, RB/LB

2008 — Scott Mathie, OL/LB

2006 — Jason Leavitt, RB/LB

2005 — Carson Christensen, QB

2005 — Carson Christensen, QB

To view second team and honorable mention All-Staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.