Note: San Juan finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2017 and was tied for third in 2A South with a 2-3 record. It lost to South Summit 40-12 in the 2A quarterfinals.
BLANDING — Barkley Christensen has mixed emotions about his first season as head coach last year.
On the one hand, he learned a lot and expects that experience to pay dividends going forward, but at the same time, it felt like a big underachievement. Even though expectations weren’t high with just a couple of returning starters back from the nine-win 2A semifinal team of 2016, any type of losing season at San Juan doesn’t sit well.
Since the program’s last losing season in 2002, the team had won nine region championships and three state championships.
“It was a disappointing season, but we learned a lot,” said Christensen, who graduated from San Juan in 2013.
One of the things Christensen observed was that he believed a padded camp in the summer could really help his team, something the program hadn’t done in the past. So San Juan attended Juab’s camp in late June, and he’s optimistic it will help in a variety of different ways.
Defensively, he hopes the extra practice in pads against live competition will help with tackling, because that was a big area of weakness a year ago.
“We were not good tacklers last year. There were a lot of times we’d meet guys in the whole and we were unable to execute the tackle. People’s run games killed us,” said Christensen.
San Juan’s defense ranked 10th in 2A out of 12 teams last season in allowing 29.0 ppg.
Offensively, San Juan went to several different 7-on-7 tournaments throughout the summer to help quarterback Corbin Palmer get more comfortable with the offense and get his timing down with his receivers.
Because of the busy summer, Christensen believes his players’ understanding of the playbook and what their assignments are is at a level comparable to where the team was during the middle of last season.
“We’re so smooth now. We can call a play, line up and run it, and everybody knows what we’re doing for the most part. Last year even during the middle of the season we were still going over assignments,” said Christensen.
While his players feel much more comfortable, so does Christensen. He second-guessed his decisions too often last year but knows the importance of being confident in his decisions and instilling that in his players.
San Juan Broncos at a glance
Coach: Barkley Christensen is entering his second year as head coach at his alma mater after leading the program to a 4-7 record last season.
San Juan Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Barkley Christensen
2017 offensive production: 18.1 ppg (8th in 2A)
- 7 returning starters
- Spread/multiple offense
Key offensive returning starters
- Corbin Palmer (QB): Started the first four games at quarterback last year and completed 43 percent of his passes for 626 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw eight interceptions.
- Tanner Black (C): San Juan’s starting center from a year ago is back for his senior season to anchor the offensive line.
Returning offensive starters
- Randall Flavall (LT)
- Isaac Jacobs (LG)
- Tanner Black (C)
- Carlos Redd (Slot)
- Shaw Nielson (WR)
- Corbin Palmer (QB)
Offensive newcomers to watch
- Landen Pemberton (Slot)
- Isaiah Hannigan (RB)
- Ryan Imlay (RB)
- Kian Conway (FB)
- Landon Nielson (RG)
- Josh Whitehorse (RT)
Coach Christensen comments on QB Corbin Miller:
“I expect big things from him this year. I know at the quarterback position this doesn’t mean a whole lot, but he’s put on 20-30 pounds. His weight room numbers are going up like crazy. His confidence level from last year to this year is insane. He’s was almost scared to bark out cadences last year, I don’t know how somebody takes a turn like that as much as he has in the leadership department, but he has. He has all the intangibles of being a great quarterback, he just didn’t have the confidence last year.”
Coach Christensen comments on experienced offensive line:
“Those three returning starters had good seasons last year and learned a lot, especially leadership-wise. Our line went from probably our weakest position group last year to probably our strongest.”
Coach Christensen comments on returning receivers Shaw Nielson and Carlos Redd:
“Getting open and securing the ball, that was our biggest thing last year. Baylor (Eldredge) wasn’t the greatest passer in the world, but he could run so well. But teams just started rolling everybody down and playing zero coverage man and we could not win a one-on-one match-up. They’ve kind of taken it personally this summer.
Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:
San Juan’s offense averaged just 18.1 ppg last season, and inconsistency was the culprit. Each game it would have three or four productive drives, but far too often it was three and out. Those kill any hope of winning the all-important field-position battle in 2A. Christensen said being more effective in the red zone will be key as well, and much of that falls on quarterback Corbin Miller. He wasn’t as confident as he needed to be in his four starts at QB last year, but he appears to have turned over a new leaf this summer.
San Juan Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Kol Conway
2017 defensive production: 29.0 ppg (10th in 2A)
- 4 returning starters
- 4-4 defense
Key defensive returning starters
- Landen Pemberton (LB): Finished fourth on the team in tackles a year ago with 69 total tackles.
- Tanner Black (DT): Is San Juan’s top returning defensive lineman after recording 47 tackles a year ago.
Returning defensive starters
- Landen Pemberton (LB)
- Shaw Nielson (DB)
- Ryan Imlay (DE)
- Tanner Black (DT)
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Carlos Redd (LB)
- Landon Nielson (DE)
- Isaiah Hannigan (LB)
- Porter Ivins (DB)
- Corbin Palmer (DB)
Coach Christensen comments on linebacker Landen Pemberton:
“He’s definitely our best defensive player coming back. He’s a really quiet type of guy, he leads by example, and that’s OK. He’s not up in your face screamer, but he’s helped a lot of kids all summer long by showing up and making plays.”
Coach Christensen comments on defensive line returning starters Ryan Imlay and Tanner Black:
“Just like the offensive line was our biggest weakness offensively, our defensive line was last year but I think this year it’s going to be our strongest point, and I think it’s because of those two coming back and their leadership. They both had great seasons last year.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:
Last season San Juan played five total games against the four 2A teams that advanced to the semifinals, and its defense was disappointing in every game. It gave up 51 and 40 points in two games against eventual champ South Summit, and then gave up 40 points to Beaver, 42 to Grand and then 34 to Delta. All position groups need to get better for San Juan to close that gap, but the defensive line could be the most important. That group has been very good this summer, and those players need to continue that all season to be successful.
Coaches preseason 2A South straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News 2A South prediction: Fifth
Key Region Game: at South Sevier, Sept. 28 (Week 7)
Bottom line: After enduring its first losing season since 2002, there’s really only one way for San Juan to go in 2018. The players have felt that urgency as well as this offseason as they’ve worked hard throughout the summer to be ready for the season opener instead of using the first half of the season to figure things out which was the case a year ago. During San Juan’s recent glory years of consistent nine- and 10-win seasons, it always hung its hat on defense. That wasn’t the case at all last season. Rediscovering that fight and desire defensively is a must if the program wants to turn things around in 2018.
- Aug. 17 — at South Summit, 5:30 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — at Monticello, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — BAYFIELD, COLO., 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — DELTA, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at Beaver, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — ENTERPRISE, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at South Sevier, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — NORTH SEVIER, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — at Grand, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for San Juan
All-time record: 413-228-4 (62 years)
Region championships: 18 (1958, 1960, 1992 co, 1993, 1994 co, 1995 co, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 co, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016)
Playoff appearances: 43
Current playoff appearance streak: 41 (1977-2017)
All-time playoff record: 59-37
State championships: 6 (1989, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010)
State championship record: 6-7
Most played rivalry: 71 meetings with Grand dating back to 1956. San Juan leads 42-29.
Felt’s Factoid(s): San Juan has the biggest championship game comeback: Down 20-0 after the first quarter, the Broncos scored 36 straight to win the 1998 Class 2A title, 36-26. ... San Juan scored in 160 straight games from 1999 to 2012, the second-longest streak in Utah prep history. ... Bronco Jens Wilson returned five kickoffs for TDs (2005) to set a state record (tied with Morgan’s Jordan Wamsley).… Coach Monty Lee has the best winning percentage, .786, among active coaches. He’s .818 at San Juan, the best mark among coaches at their current school. … San Juan has advanced to the state tournament a record 40 consecutive years, every season since 1977. (Delta also made the playoffs 38 straight years from 1975-2012).
- 2017 — 4-7 (2-3 in 2A South - 2A Quarterfinals)
- 2016 — 9-2 (5-0 in 2A South - 2A Semifinals)
- 2015 — 7-4 (4-1 in 2A South - 2A Semifinals)
- 2014 — 10-1 (6-0 in 2A South - 2A Semifinals)
- 2013 — 6-5 (3-3 in 2A South - 2A Quarterfinals)
San Juan coaching history
- 2017-current — Barkley Christensen (4-7)
- 2003-2016 — Monty Lee (128-31)
- 1987-2002 — Art Burtenshaw (133-49)
- 1983-1986 — Morris Swenson (23-15)
- 1974-1982 — George Bayles (46-47)
- 1972-1973 — Murray Kula (5-11)
- 1969-1971 — Mike Blair (12-19)
- 1968 — Dennis Udy (6-4)
- 1957-1967 — Morris Swenson (54-43)
- 1956 — Neldon Cochran (2-2)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
- 2010 — Stetler Shumway, RB/LB
- 2009 — Jace Holliday, RB/DE
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 yearsComment on this story
- 2017 — Bayl'r Eldredge, ATH
- 2016 — Jordan Blake, QB/DB
- 2016 — Kavika Su’eSu’e, RB/LB
- 2016 — Jaxon Lee, TE/LB
- 2016 — Conner Palmer, OL/DL
- 2016 — Lucas Giddings, OL/DL
- 2015 — Payton Palmer, QB/LB
- 2015 — Bronz Eldredge, RB/LB
- 2015 — Kavika Su’esu’e, RB/LB
- 2015 — Reilley Myrick, DL
- 2014 — Payton Palmer, QB/LB
- 2014 — Trason Jack, FB/LB
- 2014 — Bronz Eldredge, FB/LB
- 2014 — Easton Lee, OL/DL
- 2013 — Jens Grover, RB/LB
- 2012 — Barkley Christensen, QB/DB
- 2012 — Logan Meyer, RB/LB
- 2012 — Bobby Bowring, WR/DB
- 2012 — Bogh Bayles, OL/DE
- 2011 — Barkley Christensen, QB/DB
- 2011 — Logan Meyer, RB/LB
- 2011 — Bogh Bayles, OL/DL
- 2011 — Landon Palmer, OL/DL
- 2010 — Colby Redd RB
- 2010 — Taj Eldredge OL/LB
- 2010 — Cameron Shumway QB
- 2010 — AJ Slavens OL/DL
- 2010 — Tyler Nielson WR/DB
- 2009 — Peyton Black, FB/LB
- 2009 — Stetler Shumway, RB, DL
- 2009 — AJ Slavens, OL/DL
- 2009 — Jimmy Tate, WR/LB
- 2009 — Benny Royer, DB
- 2008 — Kohler Black, RB/LB
- 2008 — Nathan Einerson, WR/DB
- 2008 — Jace Holliday, RB/DL
- 2008 — Terron Jack, WR/DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.