For most people living north of Salt Lake, hearing that Fremont High is the team to beat in Region 1 golf wouldn't exactly be breaking news. Such an announcement has all the shock value of a headline proclaiming, "Sun to rise tomorrow," in 72-point type.
It's no secret that the Silver Wolves, under the tutelage of coach Bryce Ballif, have evolved into one of the state's best golf programs. Besides winning the last two region titles, Fremont has made a habit of playing well enough at the state tournament to permanently strike fear into the hearts of their rivals to the south. Even top-flight programs like Brighton and Alta are very aware of how their teams stack up to Ballif's.
"I think that Fremont is going to be very good this year," says Rick Dittman, the coach at Alta High. "We know better than to forget about them."
While other coaches from around the state sing his team's praises, Ballif seems to have come down with that strange disease that causes the brain trusts of even the best teams to deflect any and all positive comments aimed at their respective squads.
"We've played well enough so far, I guess," says Ballif. "We just keep getting lucky."
With all the talent on his roster, Ballif could very well make his own luck for the rest of the season. His top three can play with any team in the state, but talent isn't the only quality that makes them dangerous. The Silver Wolves have depth.
Each of the top eight players could conceivably be stars on many of the teams in Utah. They're not just capable, consistent and wise beyond their years, they are also interchangeable. Any one of them is capable of finishing first on any given day.
"We have our top players, but that distinction doesn't mean that much," says Ballif. "Our seventh-place guy has finished second already this year, and our eighth-place guy finished third in the last match."
And as if that isn't scary enough for opposing teams, the Silver Wolves have one more ace up their sleeve — they are young, possibly one of the youngest teams in the state.
All of the best players on the team are underclassmen. Sophomore Denny Job is the top contributor on the squad and he is backed up by Zac Blair and Jordan Herzog, a freshman and a sophomore, respectively. There is no telling how good they can be once they get to be a little older, like 16.
Fremont's talent is undeniable, but Ballif's crew still needs to prove that it can they can stand up to the pressure at the state tourney. The Silver Wolves sent a good group to state last year, but they failed to play up to their potential and weren't much of a factor.
"We didn't scare anyone at state last year," says Ballif. "We've been working to improve all year, and hopefully that will start to show in our play."
Here's a look at the other Region 1 golf teams:
WEBER: The team with the best chance of catching Fremont in the race for the Region 1 crown is Weber High. The Warriors have every right to feel overlooked by preseason sports gurus, as they didn't lose a soul from last year's squad, which finished second in the State Tournament.
"Weber is a very good team," says Fremont coach Ballif. "Sometimes I feel like the race for the region title will be even harder than state."
Weber will be represented by one of the most talented trios in all of Utah. Keaton Woodland, Matt Wahlan and Jeff Jones will have to maximize their nearly unlimited potential if the Warriors are to overtake Fremont and make another run at the 5A title.
NORTHRIDGE: Fremont and Weber have managed to distance themselves from the pack in such a way that all of the other coaches have resigned to compete for third. The good news for the Northridge faithful is that the Knights are currently on top of "the rest" of the teams in Region 1.
"We haven't played up to our full potential so far," says coach Ryan Jenkins. "If our players can overcome some course management problems that we've been having, I think that we might even be able to catch Weber."
The Knights' fairly young squad is led by a diverse group in sophomore Scott Odekirk, senior T.J. Berry and sophomore Alex Sutton.
DAVIS: While Davis High is currently in fourth place, just behind rival Northridge, coach Gordon Haueter believes that his team has the talent and is slowly gaining the momentum necessary to catch the Knights.
"We finished sixth of seven teams in the first tournament," says Haueter. "We've come a long way since then, and I think that we're playing well enough to hopefully move up into that third spot."
The Darts have plenty of talented players, but all of them have been plagued with bouts of inconsistency. Seniors Taylor Johnson, Josh Roberts and Eric Burkholtz will need to set the tone for the rest of the golfers, and up-and-coming freshman Dustin Haws should also be a factor.
VIEWMONT: First-year coach Rick Clark has one very ambitious goal for Viewmont's 2005 team: "We want to qualify for state," says Clark.
In order to accomplish this goal, the Vikings will need to overcome a slow start to the '05 season and maximize the talent found on a roster with only two seniors. Clark, however, isn't too worried. He feels that his best team has not yet shown up at a tournament.
"We need to work on our consistency," he says. "We need to shoot in the 70s at tournaments, not just in practice."
The team will lean heavily on seniors Chris Wall and Camille Gardener. Wall provides leadership and experience, while Gardener routinely embarrasses her male opponents despite the fact that she hits from their tees.
LAYTON: In spite of their best efforts, Layton hasn't made much noise in the 5A golf scene in the last few years. But coach Jeff Bearnson, in his third year at the helm, has a message for his troops.
"Don't ever give up," he says. "If you believe in yourself and just keep trying, sooner or later you'll bounce back."
The Lancers are in a good position to embrace their coach's mantra and make a run at the state tournament. With a top-heavy roster filled primarily with seniors, the time could be now or never for a gutsy Layton team.
Bearnson will be counting on senior All-Stater Ben Schilleman to have another stellar year, and he will be backed up by seniors Chris Hall, Kelly Jensen, Tom Watson and Drew Romney.
CLEARFIELD: Clearfield High coach Brett Higgins is a realist. He knows that his young team is in the process of rebuilding, and that his Falcons probably won't be lobbying for supremacy in the loaded Region 1. But that doesn't mean that he hasn't made goals to motivate his crew.
"I just want to see them get better every week," says Higgins. "Our scores have come down a lot since the first tournament, so I am happy with where we are."
Higgins has a lot of confidence in Eric Snyder, Wes Holmer and Jordan Williams, the three seniors on his squad. He will expect them to provide leadership and consistency for the rest of the team.