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Coach molds team

New year, new direction

First-year East head football coach Aaron Whitehead conducts practice at the Salt Lake high school.

First-year East head football coach Aaron Whitehead conducts practice at the Salt Lake high school.

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

When new coaches take over a team — regardless of the sport — they're always eager to implement their techniques and philosophies in an effort to better the program. Sometimes those work, and often times they don't.

With 20 new coaches walking the high school football sidelines this year, there were bound to be some successes and failures.

No coach has had a bigger impact on his new team quite like Ben Lomond's Art Burtenshaw. It's actually phenomenal when you think about it.

After 16 successful seasons at San Juan High, Burtenshaw decided a change was in order. He applied for the Scots' vacancy six hours to the north, and many thought he was crazy. After amassing a 131-50 record at San Juan, he was suddenly taking over one of the worst programs in the last two decades.

Since 1986, the Scots have had just two winning seasons. The first came in 1997 as Ben Lomond advanced to the 3A state championship. The second came in 2000, when the Scots finished 6-5. Their seasons have been littered with countless 0-9 and 1-8 records, along with a 1-9 record last year.

With Burtenshaw at the helm this year, the Scots are making some noise with a 3-3 record.

"I knew it would be a challenge to change the attitude," said Burtenshaw. "It's up and down. Sometimes they do things right and they don't get rewarded for it, so it takes a little longer."

Such was the case two weeks ago when Ben Lomond blew a 25-3 lead against rival Ogden before losing in overtime by one. The next week though, the Scots overcame a 17-0 deficit to defending state champion Tooele en route to a 32-29 win.

"They really could've folded down 17-0, but they didn't," said Burtenshaw. "That says a lot about these kids."

East coach Aaron Whitehead has also made a splash in his debut.

After four seasons as an East assistant, he's guided the surprising Leopards to a 5-1 record and a Class 4A No. 2 ranking in his first year as the head coach.

People forget that East could easily be 6-0, but a fumble on the five yard line in the final minute against Northridge resulted in a 20-17 season-opening loss.

"This is the best team we've had since I've been here in the past five years," said Whitehead.

Under Whitehead, can the Leopards become a dominant team again? Only time will tell.

Kanab first-year coach Bucky Orton didn't exactly inherit a bad team, but he's done an admirable job in leading the Cowboys to a 6-0 record this year.

Other first-year coaches who've had impressive starts are Orem's Bob Steele, Viewmont's Robbie Gunter and San Juan's Monty Lee.

First-year coaches

Coach, School '03 '02

Rec. Rec.

Alex Jacobson, Jordan 3-3 8-3

Robbie Gunter, Viewmont 3-2 4-5

Aaron Tillett, Weber 3-3 4-5

Doug Meek, Mtn. View 0-6 2-7

Bob Steele, Orem 3-2 2-8

Aaron Whitehead, East 5-1 1-8

Brian Berrong, Roy 2-4 2-8

Keeko Georgelas, Murray 2-4 2-8

Colby Knight, Payson 0-6 3-7

James Cordova, Judge 2-4 2-8

A. Burtenshaw, B. Lomond 3-3 1-9

Kevin Reynolds, Emery 0-5 4-6

Kevin Dickson, Uintah 1-5 5-5

Les Hamilton, Grantsville 3-3 4-7

Jerry Cowan, Duchesne 1-4 4-5

Bucky Orton, Kanab 6-0 9-2

Nolan Andersen, N. Sevier 0-6 0-9

Travis McAllister, S. Sevier 1-4 3-7

Monty Lee, San Juan 4-2 5-6

Alema Te'o, Whitehorse 2-3 1-9

Note: The 2002 record reflects the team's record under the old coach.

E-MAIL: jedward@desnews.com