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Here’s a look at Region 7 gridiron hopefuls

SHARE Here’s a look at Region 7 gridiron hopefuls

PROVO — It's not too common in today's high school sports world for star basketball players to also suit up for football.

The really good basketball players, those who are college-scholarship candidates with All-State potential, are often counseled by those outside of football that playing the more physical sport is risking a career-ending injury.

Because both sports also have significant off-season practice and work-out demands, it's rare that a teenager can handle both.

Timpview's Griffin Miller, a star guard the past two seasons on the Thunderbirds hoops squad, is one of those rare high school athletes who has managed to fit both basketball and football training into his daily schedule. He's also one of the few who ignored the advice of many who called him crazy for risking the loss of a basketball scholarship by getting hurt playing football.

"I don't play sports for a scholarship, I play for fun," Miller said. "And football is way too much fun to pass up on the opportunity. And if I go out and think I'm going to get hurt, then I probably will get hurt. So I can't worry about that. I just have to play hard and practice hard, and have fun."

At the completion of last basketball season Miller was urged by his close friends and Timpview's football coaches to give the gridiron game a look. They all recognized that Miller, a senior, is a natural football talent with his lightning-quick acceleration and incredible jumping ability.

"I went out and ran some routes, and I liked it," he said. "Now it's so much fun that I'm going to stick with it."

So far, Miller has looked as impressive as the coaches expected. He's penciled in to be one of the T-Birds starting receivers and the starting free safety.

"He will probably be the standout player on both sides of the ball for us this year," Timpview coach Louis Wong said. "He has also been the biggest boost to our team with the attitude that he brings to the field everyday."

Miller says basketball is still his main love, and he doesn't plan to neglect his dedication to becoming a better hoops player. Over the summer he played on two club teams and worked out in the gym each afternoon — but only after fulfilling his football obligations each morning.

"I don't plan on taking any breaks away from basketball. After football practice each night, I go straight to the gym and work on my basketball skills. I'll do that all season," he said.

This year is a pigskin/roundball rarity across Region 7. Every team has at least one football player who is also projected to be a starter on the school's hoops team. Springville's Preston Eaton will surely be one of the top basketball players in Region 7 this winter, but for the next few months he'll be catching passes for the Red Devils football squad.

"He loves football and wanted to play," Springville coach Doug Bills said. "It didn't take any arm twisting from me to get him to come out."

Payson's Spencer Nielsen will be kicking field goals and taking hand-offs for the Lions before moving on to shoot three-pointers in the winter. Lehi quarterback Tyson Nolan, Provo quarterback Warner Jarman, and Orem receiver Bryan Gonzales are all likely to be hardwood stars this year, but only after they're done getting a little dirty on the football field this fall.


(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes.)

1. TIMPVIEW: The Thunderbirds are very young, but talented. First-year coach Louis Wong feels receivers Preston Phillips, Griffin Miller, David Jackson and Ben Ashworth will be just as good as the team's star ball-catchers of the past. All four will also play on both sides of the ball, where the T-Birds run a "confused chaos" defense that gives opponents fits. The quarterback job is still not settled, with four still competing for the spot. The line, led by Houston Reynolds and Famika Anae is inexperienced, but as big and strong as always. 2004 RECORD: 12-1. PLAYOFFS: Class 4A state champions.

2. OREM: Coach Robert Steele is the type to keep hype of his team low-key, but other coaches in the league fear the Tigers. It's hard to ignore the fact that Orem has the region's top two linemen in Zeke Wiley (6'4", 310 pounds) and Ryan Freeman (6'3", 275 pounds). Behind those two, running the ball and controlling the clock should be no problem. The Tigers also have two very talented and athletic receivers in Gavin Jones and Bryan Gonzales. Orem is always one of the state's tougher teams to score on and to pass on. 2004 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

3. SPRINGVILLE: Matching last year's undefeated regular season effort is not likely for this group of inexperienced Red Devils. However, Springville has a big team in the trenches and good team speed, both ingredients of a winning team. Riley Allred should star on both sides of the ball. Justin Church will be one key member of the team's running-backs-by-committee, and B.J. Smith one of many good receivers. Big men Derek Wright and Eldon Belknap will be the ones opening the holes. 2004 RECORD: 10-1. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

4. PROVO: Regardless of how confident coach Clint Christiansen is that this Bulldogs team can compete with anyone, they're still a young group that has to get over that losing hump on the field. Quick-footed quarterback Warner Jarman will be the center of Provo's attack, with his main target being the sure-handed Chad D'Haenens. The main ball carrier will be Austin Alder. Up front, the Bulldogs have good size in Funaki Asisi, and linebacker Taylor Orton will make Provo solid on defense. 2004 RECORD: 3-6. PLAYOFFS: Missed playoffs.

5. PAYSON: This is coach Colby Knight's third group of players, and normally the third year is the charm in turning a program around. The Lions are much bigger, stronger and faster than teams of the past. Two big guys, David DeGraffenried and Garrett Cannon should turn plenty of heads this year with their play in the trenches. Corbin Worthen has outstanding speed out of the backfield. Jared Cook will also take a few hand-offs. The Lions will break in junior Wes Haskell in the quarterback spot. 2004 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Missed playoffs.

6. LEHI: Moving up a classification is tough enough, but doing it in a year with few starters back could prove challenging for the Pioneers. The key to success likely lies with a young and small line, which means linebackers Seth Munger and Travis Holland could be making most of the tackles. Offensively, big things are expected of senior quarterback Tyson Nolan. Whether he'll have enough firepower around him is the question, but receiver Brennan Bonnet should help. 2004 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round of 3A playoffs.

E-mail: jimr@desnews.com